Pubdate: Fri, 13 Sep 2002
Source: Whitehorse Star (CN YK)
Copyright: 2002 Whitehorse Star
Author: Sarah Elizabeth Brown


When a user smokes a rock of crack cocaine, it's the large number of blood 
vessels in the lungs that absorb the drug so quickly, transporting it to 
the brain and nerves.

The body's response is to produce high amounts of dopamine, the naturally 
occuring "feel-good" neurotransmitter that creates the euphoric rush drug 
users crave.

Beyond the many health risks associated with cocaine, chronic use can lead 
to paranoia and even hallucinations. Toxicologists say long-term use can 
eventually alter the brain's chemistry.

In reality, that looks like a woman trying to wriggle out of her own skin 
because the bugs she thinks she sees crawling all over her arms are driving 
her mad.

Saturday, Aug. 31,11:27 p.m., headed to the RCMP detachment cells.

"They're going to want me to search her," Const. Tracy Phillips says as she 
pulls on her Mountie-issue, black leather gloves on the zippy drive back to 
the Fourth Avenue office.

"She usually has needles everywhere," Phillips radios to officers already 
handling Tina, an HIV-positive coke addict picked up on Main Street. 
Phillips pauses. She's dealt with Tina before, as recently as the previous 

"Think infectious."

Cpl. Wayne Howse figures he came across the woman just after she smoked her 
latest fix, flailing her arms like an off-kilter windmill.

Const. Spencer Hornoi and Kwanlin Dun First Nation community Const. Corey 
Edzerza each have a black-gloved hand straining to pin one of Tina's hands 
to the cement block wall so she can be searched.

Tugging and struggling to get away, she begs to be let go so she can pick 
off the bugs.

"Please," she whimpers. "It feels sooooo gross."

"No bugs, Tina, they're all gone," Hornoi tries to convince her. In the 
middle of cocaine-fuelled hallucinations, she's not buying his trick.

Phillips rummages through the lost and found T-shirt box for something to 
preserve the woman's modesty while she removes her string-fastened top - no 
one stays in cells with strings on their clothing they can hang themselves 

Meanwhile, Tina has her reprieve. She sits picking at the scabbed-over 
needle marks crawling up and down her arms, removing the "bugs."

"You don't want that biting you or spitting at you," says Phillips.

Tina's dressed like any 24-year-old out for a Saturday night on the town: a 
slinky, handkerchief of a top tied with crisscrossing strings across her 
bare back, shiny bar pants and heeled, knee-high boots.

The goofy, multi-colourful socks with individual toes belie her youth. It's 
the only thing that does.

"Anywhere from 20 to 40," a constable tells the dispatcher when he's asked 
the woman's age to run her name on their computer system.

Tina's large purse is up-ended on a counter and officers paw through her 
belongings, noting a plethora of toiletries and a Polaroid photo of herself 
smiling in healthier days. Phillips remarks later the woman carries so much 
with her because she's constantly moving between scruffy hotel rooms to 
friends' couches.

Next to fall out are a homemade crack pipe - fashioned from an empty cough 
syrup bottle and a syringe - and a lozenge case with assorted pills and 
four "decks" or individually-wrapped portions of powdered cocaine. Another 
deck is hidden in a knife sheath.

Tina's in hot water, the officers say. If she's already paid for the drugs, 
she's out of a lot of money. But if she hasn't paid up yet, whoever she's 
selling them for is going to be furious.

The officers seize the drugs and a $50-bill used to wrap cocaine. After 
she's charged for drug possession and released in the morning, she'll leave 
with 10 cents.

Const. Rick Aird nudges Phillips as she sprays her gloves with 
disinfectant. "Did you guys hear that last transmission? There's an 
emergency at Tim Hortons."

12:30 a.m. - Three car-loads of Mounties troop into the coffee shop only to 
traipse right back out after the dispatcher passes on a call about teens 
brawling at the Northland Mobile Park. Const. Cameron Long tells Phillips 
to stay for coffee while the others deal with this call.

"I'll go," she yells at him, grinning. "I'll go," she shouts again, 
slamming her car door to drown out Long.

"I'm not missin' out," she says.

Turns out the teenaged brawlers are nothing more than six boys barely old 
enough to get into a PG-13 movie, sheepishly admitting to playing 
"gladiator" in a playground sandbox, armed with long foam cylinders.

They smile and nod when she tells them to go home because they're making a din.

"Now!" says Phillips, clapping her black-gloved hands. They start moving. 
The officers are back in their cars, whipping across the road to handle a 
"domestic" in progress. A neighbour just saw a man slug his wife after she 
ran out of their home. A woman comes out of the house, carrying a child. 
One, or both, are crying.

Agitated and cursing as he's arrested, the husband is hustled to cells 
where several officers stand around him while he's searched. Howse stands 
by with one of the newly-issued Taser electric-shock guns ready, just in 
case Michael gets out of hand.

Earlier in the evening, Const. Wayne Gork used a Taser electric-shock gun 
in the cell block to subdue a break and enter suspect he'd arrested. On the 
way to cells, the man repeatedly bashed his head against the Plexiglas 
between him and the constable.

Once in a cell, he stomped around, violently agitated. That man blew .266, 
more than three times the legal blood alcohol limit for driving, but he 
probably had some other kind of drug in his system as well, Gork said then. 
Drugs and booze would seem to be the combination in Michael's system as 
well, only the 18 "nerve pills" he admits to taking along with too much 
alcohol are having the opposite effect. Sitting on a bench while he removes 
his boots, he blinks like he's just been jerked awake and hugs himself to 
keep warm.

Auxiliary Const. Rick Smith's hand on Michael's arm is the only thing 
keeping the man vertical as the flash bulb pops for his mug shot. He's 
getting groggier by the minute, so a constable calls an ambulance. Michael 
could be bluffing, but the last thing they need is for him to have a heart 
attack in cells, says Howse.

1:23 a.m. - Back out on the road in a very large, very conspicuous SUV 
marked with RCMP colours, Howse circles one of the downtown drug houses, 
calling in licence plates to the dispatcher, who relays back the registered 
owners' names and addresses.

It's information Howse will tuck away in a file for possible future use. 
Two pickup trucks are parked around the crack house temporarily as 
customers make their purchases inside. One cab driver waits, taxi running, 
while another pulls up.

Howse circles again. And once more for good measure. A parked brown pickup 
full of people drives off.

"I think he took the hint," Howse notes.

"Here comes another one," continues the corporal as he points out a woman 
scurrying down the alley. "She's just wired."

Phillips cruises by and radios to her watch commander.

"Picking on (the drug house) again, eh Wayne?"

"If you took a drive by there, you'd understand," he replies.

"Lots of vehicles out there tonight?"

"Yeah, looks like it's a regular McDonald's."

Back in the cell block, lovingly called the Pink Palace for its colour or 
the Crowbar Hotel for its purpose, Long says Whitehorse General Hospital 
staff discovered Michael's pulse this evening is 122 beats per minute - 
while he's sleeping. He wasn't bluffing about the drugs in his system. "Wow."

"Yeah, that's what they said," says Long.

4 a.m. - "You cost me 20 bucks," a cabbie tells Howse in line at Tim Hortons.

It would seem his customer chose to stay in the drug house rather than come 
out while a cop hovered. After waiting for a half-hour, the cab driver 
elected to just eat the fare and move on.

Editor's note: Tina and Michael are not their real names.
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