Pubdate: Wed, 25 Jul 2007
Source: Ottawa Citizen (CN ON)
Copyright: 2007 The Ottawa Citizen
Authors: Andrew Seymour, and Jake Rupert
Bookmark: (Cocaine)
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Canada)
Bookmark: (Treatment)
Bookmark: (CN Police)


Charges For Possession, Trafficking, Importing Up 57%

The number of drug charges Ottawa police laid for the possession, 
trafficking and importation of cocaine jumped 57 per cent last year.

The police statistics, obtained by the Citizen yesterday, come at a 
time when Ottawa is battling a growing reputation as a haven for 
crack-cocaine addicts, and frustrated residents are holding protests 
demanding that city and provincial officials take action to stem the 
tide of illegal drug use.

While the dramatic increases could partially be attributed to 
increased enforcement and attention by police, Chief Vernon White 
said the statistics are an indication that the use of crack cocaine 
is on the rise in Ottawa.

"It tells me that the concerns about drug use downtown are absolutely 
right. That is probably our biggest challenge right now," said Chief White.

It is the third year in a row the number of charges laid in relation 
to cocaine under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act have risen. 
That number has more than doubled since 2004.

Police laid 546 drug charges in connection with cocaine in 2006, 
compared to only 216 charges in 2004. In 2005, police laid 347 charges.

The police statistics also showed a 28-per-cent increase in the 
number of charges in relation to marijuana, and a 78-per-cent 
increase in relation to a broad category labelled "other drugs." 
Overall, drug charges were up 40 per cent last year.

Wendy Muckle, executive director of Ottawa Inner City Health, said 
there's been a marked increase in the number of people using crack in 
the city over the last couple of years.

"We're seeing more use than we did previously. It's been quite a 
noticeable rise, and I think it's visible on our streets."

Her group is the main health care provider to homeless and addicted 
people in the city, and Ms. Muckle attributes the rise in crack use 
to a change in tactics by dealers.

She said about 18 months ago, dealers reduced the size of hits they 
sell and lowered the price.

"It's a volume business now," Ms. Muckle said. "They sell smaller 
amounts for less and because it's so cheap, people who didn't used to 
use are using."

She said she also finds that lately she's seeing more and more young 
people, particularly women, caught in the throes of crack addiction.

"These are people 18 to early 20s, and you see them on the streets 
for only a couple of weeks and they look like hell," Ms. Muckle said. 
"It's very concerning."

Chief White said crack cocaine, which sells for around $5 a hit, is 
extremely profitable for dealers. "It's an easy drug to sell. It's 
high volume, with good profit margins," he said.

A day after releasing ward-by-ward crime statistics that showed 
nearly 10- per-cent increases in Criminal Code offences in the city's 
two busiest wards, Rideau-Vanier and Somerset, Chief White said past 
experience has shown other criminal activity has also risen. Overall, 
the number of Criminal Code offences rose slightly in Ottawa last 
year, although violent crime dropped seven per cent.

"It's a root cause of a lot of our other crimes. If we deal with this 
drug issue, we should be able to see a further decline in crime 
statistics," he said, adding police intend to maintain a high level 
of enforcement this year to get the problem under control.

In November 2006, 10 more officers were added to the department's 
drug squad and neighbourhood officers have been stepping up 
enforcement to deal with growing community concerns, Chief White said.

"We'll continue to hit those areas as we have been. Gathering 
intelligence about crack houses, particularly, and trying to knock 
off dealers," said Chief White, adding enforcement needs to be 
coupled with proper prevention and education programs to effectively 
address the problem.

Opening a proposed $8-million, 48-bed youth treatment centre is 
critical to that effort, he said.

"The drug treatment facility cannot be a long-term solution. It needs 
to be an immediate solution. This will be the greatest crime 
prevention tool this city could see."

Chief White also welcomed new ideas that could reduce the burden on 
police and serve as a "disruptive" influence on crack dealers and users.

On Monday, the police services board sponsored a motion presented by 
Crime Prevention Ottawa encouraging the province to adopt new 
legislation that would target problem properties.

Ottawa Councillor Jacques Legendre said the Safer Communities and 
Neighbourhoods legislation could allow officials to go in and help 
landlords quickly shut down properties that have become crack or 
prostitution dens.

Meanwhile, a group of social support and health organizations will 
hold a meeting tomorrow night to discuss their next moves after city 
council voted two weeks ago to kill the crack-pipe program.

The program saw the city making clean crack pipes available on demand 
through the organizations, with the goal of reducing the spread of 
HIV and hepatitis C among users. The organizations supported the 
program because they believe, along with the city's chief medical 
officer of health and an epidemiologist who studied the program, that 
it was reducing the spread of disease.

Officials from the organizations have roundly criticized council for 
the decision to kill the program, and have called on the provincial 
government to strip council of its responsibilities as a board of 
public health.
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