Pubdate: Wed, 10 Apr 2002 Source: Lakeside Leader, The (CN AB) Copyright: 2002 The Lakeside Leader Contact: http://www.lakesideleader.com/ Details: http://www.mapinc.org/media/2365 Author: M. Partington-Richer CRACK KEEPING RCMP BUSY Slave Lake might have lost its onerous distinction as the busiest RCMP detachment in the province and dropped to 26th spot in recent years. But that doesn1t mean there1s any less crime in this community, the detachment1s top cop told Town councillors last week. "We haven1t slowed down. Our per member caseload has gone up, but in some other places, crime is out of control," Staff Sergeant Dave Shardlow told councillors as he laid out his plans for attacking Slave Lake1s crime rate for the next three years. He added, however, his plans are at the mercy of council1s direction, and can be changed at any time. That said, however, Shardlow said officers would continue their push to put the boots to drug-use and alcohol abuse where ever possible. Those, he added matter-of-factly, are at the root of every crime committed in this community. But there are some reasons to be cautiously optimistic. "Last year we got more drug (search) warrants than ever before," he said, adding officers had just seized "a pound of pot," from Slave Lake streets days earlier. But it1s the harder, more powerful drugs that worry Shardlow most. "Chemical drugs are out of control," he said. Crack cocaine is "one of the biggest problems across the province," he continued, and it1s just as big a problem in Slave Lake as it is anywhere. "I1ve never seen anything like it," he said of his dozen or so postings in a 26-year career with the RCMP. "There are some horrible things out there, and crack is here," he added. It1s one of the most addictive chemicals on the street, he said, in that "66 per cent of people who try crack once are hooked." Worse, he added, are the ramifications of the addiction. "You have to steal $2,000 (worth of merchandise) a day if you have a $500 a day (drug) habit. "These people don1t work," he said of the many people in this community who are already or are well on their way to becoming crack addicts. "This is a serious problem in this community." But officers are thwarting many users1 best attempts to stay stoned, he added. "We scooped tons of drugs this year. We1ve got a bunch of young guys (officers) who are working very hard on this and we want to stay on it." So effective is their search and seize campaign, he added, "we1ve burned drugs three times since I arrived." RCMP officers have built a very effective DARE (Drug and Alcohol Resistance Education) program here, he said, with four officers currently trained to take the 28-week message to Grade 5 students in the area. "We need to get (the message) to these kids," he added. Not only does the program convince kids to stay way from drugs and alcohol, "it also gets our members into the schools." The overall youth of this community is certainly a factor in both the drug and alcohol problems in this community. But Shardlow was careful not to blame teens, or the 22-to-35-year-olds for officers1 frequent need to work many overtime hours. "The parties go until 5:00 or 6:00 a.m., and some are not young kids," whose actions demand officers1 response, Shardlow added.