Pubdate: Fri, 04 Mar 2005
Source: Flamborough Post (CN ON)
Copyright: 2005, Flamborough Post
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Canada)
Bookmark: (Cocaine)


Increased drug enforcement is being credited for big decreases in home 
break-ins and motor vehicle thefts in Hamilton last year.

"Although we're seeing some great stats, a reason to celebrate, there's 
still work to be done," Deputy Chief Ken Leendertse told the Hamilton 
Police Services Board during a presentation on 2004 crime rates.

"Any time someone has their house broken into or is a victim of a purse 
snatching or robbery downtown, it really impacts our community."

The 3,476 vehicle thefts and 1,973 home break-ins represented 26 and 24 per 
cent decreases, respectively, with the 3,383 assaults representing the next 
biggest drop at 16 per cent fewer than in 2003.

While robberies, sexual assaults, frauds, thefts and other break-ins also 
decreased, murders, attempted killings and abductions rose slightly - to 
nine, seven and 12, respectively.

Leendertse said the latter numbers are still below the five-year average 
and belie a trend that has seen violent crimes drop by nearly one-quarter 
over that period.

Municipalities across Canada are also seeing violent crime rates drop, "but 
not to this level," he said, linking the decreases to a clampdown on drug 
offences, particularly crack cocaine.

Even so, the biggest jump in drug charges was for marijuana possession, 
with the 583 arrests representing a 58 per cent increase over 2003.

The number of charges for growing pot also increased by a third, to 81, 
while cocaine possession and trafficking were up by 17 and 24 per cent, 
with 233 and 151 charges, respectively. Police Chief Brian Mullan said 
crack addicts are responsible for three-quarters of all break-ins and many 
variety and gas-bar robberies, but not most violent crimes.

Targeting marijuana meanwhile sends the message that illegal drugs are not 
welcome in Hamilton and schools in particular, he said afterwards.

"Anybody found in possession of marijuana is in violation of the (criminal) 
code or the act and we will pursue them."

That view was echoed by board chair Bernie Morelli, who said zero tolerance 
of illegal drugs will remain the rule until the law changes.

"I don't think that we're considered as a police force, certainly from a 
board policy, one that doesn't use discretion," he said when asked if a 
student's potential career choices should be ruined by a simple possession 

"That's what law enforcement is all about.

"It's at their discretion that they enforce the law, and I and the board 
stand in strong support of the chief and his service."
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