Pubdate: Sat, 22 May 2004
Source: Duncan News Leader (CN BC)
Copyright: 2004 Duncan News Leader
Author: Edward Hill


A growing population of drug addicts is driving the increase in theft and 
house break-ins across Cowichan, says the Duncan/ North Cowichan police chief.

"We are finding a lot of stolen property being converted to drugs," said 
RCMP Insp. Linton Robinson. Duncan is seeing the full gamut of drug use, 
including cocaine and heroin, he said. Crystal meth, which has grown into 
the notorious drug-of-choice in Vancouver, has started showing up in 
Cowichan, he noted.

"We have been identified by the central headquarters in Vancouver as having 
a substantial increase in crime," Robinson said to North Cowichan 
councillors on Wednesday. "There has been an influx of out-of-town talent."

Criminals and drug addicts are being driven from the Lower Mainland, 
Victoria and Nanaimo to Cowichan, he said.

Const. Jennifer Prunty said Duncan sees a steady transient population, 
often committing crimes and moving on.

"In terms of a break and enters, drug users are looking for the quick, easy 
target," she said. "And we are increasingly arresting people with drug and 
alcohol problems."

Break and enters from January to March are up to 76, from 61 during the 
same period last year. The number of assaults has grown to 110 from 91.

The expansion of organized crime is also influencing the drug trade on the 
street level, which is a trend across Canada, she added.

"And we saw that with the two grow-ops shut down last week," she said, 
pointing to a bust that netted 10 pounds of marijuana that police suspect 
was destined for distribution by organized crime rings.

But unlike the Lower Mainland, Cowichan has not seen the growth of toxic 
methamphetamine labs.

"Labs are not prevalent in the Valley, but we are seeing meth users, so it 
is only a matter of time."

Congruent with addiction problems, Robinson said officers are dealing with 
double the number of people with mental health issues than last year.

"They are taken to the hospital and generally released," said Robinson, 
"There is no proper facility here to treat them."

He noted that when Vancouver's Riverview Hospital, which treats victims of 
mental illness, is closed, Cowichan should expect even more of an impact.
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