Pubdate: Fri, 02 Jan 2004
Source: Fort McMurray Today (CN AB)
Copyright: 2004 Fort McMurray Today
Author: Timothy Schafer
Bookmark: (Cannabis)
Bookmark: (Cocaine)


As the economy in Fort McMurray rolls along, opportunity abounds for
enterprising drug traffickers, according to the head of the RCMP's
local drug unit. Like every city and town that grows at a rapid pace,
the population of ne'er-do-wells is growing as well, said Cpl. Jim

The increasing crime base has kept the three-person city unit busy,
executing up to 40 residential search warrants in a year and engaging
in a considerable amount of street-level action.

"There's no shortage of work in Fort McMurray," he

There hasn't been a pandemic infusion of illicit drugs, he said. Just
lots of the old favourites like cocaine and marijuana.

But Fort McMurray does enjoy an unusual market position by virtue of
its geography and lofty perch on the average income scale. The
isolation of the city from a major centre, and the availability of
illicit product, creates a monopoly up here for traffickers, said Janczek.

Once traffickers of controlled substances establish themselves, they
can demand whatever they want for a price and give whatever quality in
return, he said.

"Typically, drugs in Fort McMurray are of a sub-standard quality and
at exorbitant prices. They are inflated," Janczek said. "If they tried
to sell the drugs they do in Fort McMurray at the price they do in
Fort McMurray in major centres like Vancouver or Toronto or Quebec,
they'd probably end up dead."

The user base here doesn't have many options, though, and they pay the
price. And they can afford it, he said, noting the profusion of
disposable income from high wages paid to local workers.

Such a market opportunity has drawn some attention from bigger fish.
Fort McMurray is not so isolated that there isn't influence from the
major centres, Janczek said. People affiliated with gangs are coming
up from Edmonton and Calgary.

"They are seeing this as an opportunity to make money up here and they
are bringing the drugs in," he said. "It just so happens that some of
them are affiliated with gangs."

Although uniformed personnel are extremely effective at street-level
dealing and account for the bulk of the arrests, said Janczek, the
drug unit is concentrating enforcement a little higher up on the food
chain, so to speak.

"We're more interested at this juncture in those people who are
bringing the drugs into Fort McMurray and those people who are
actually trafficking at a higher level," he said.
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