Pubdate: Sat, 10 Feb 2007
Source: Expositor, The (CN ON)
Section: Pg A3
Copyright: 2007 The Brantford Expositor
Author: Vincent Ball
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Canada)
Bookmark: (Cocaine)


Close to $759,000 worth of illegal drugs were confiscated by the 
Brantford police street crimes unit last year.

That's up from the more than $640,000 worth seized by the specialized 
unit in 2005 and well above the $532,000 worth of illegal drugs 
appropriated by police in 2004.

So, are there more drugs available in the community or are police 
just getting better at catching drug dealers?

"I think it's a combination of both," said Sue Lefler, of St. 
Leonard's Community Services. "I do think there are a lot more out 
there and police are doing a better job of shutting them down. But 
it's tough to keep up with it because crack houses are so portable.

"As soon as they shut one down, another one opens up somewhere else."

Lefler is with Addiction Services, which is operated by St. 
Leonard's. While she couldn't say how many crack houses there are in 
Brantford, she said there are six in the downtown.

The number of people seeking help for substance abuse addiction is 
rising, she said. And, lately St. Leonard's staff have noticed a new 
and disturbing trend: a growing number of people in their 40s and 50s 
are seeking help for crack cocaine addiction.

Some try it once and that's the end of it. Others, however, get 
addicted and realize that it's not something they can deal with on their own.

Prostitution connected to the drug trade is increasing and has become 
more visible, mostly in the Market Street area. In some cases, 
motorists are being stopped by women desperate to get money for 
drugs, she said.

At this point, the community hasn't had to deal with crystal meth. 
Lefler said that's probably because police have been able to keep 
certain criminal elements out of the community.

Formed in 2003, the street crimes unit replaced the city police-RCMP 
joint forces operation that battled the local drug trade. It was 
disbanded when the RCMP moved its Brantford-based officer to the 
Hamilton office.

The street crimes unit focuses on drugs and other crimes such a break 
and enters, car thefts and thefts from cars, which are often drug-related.

Figures compiled by police show the street crimes unit laid 156 drug 
charges in 2006, up from 121 in 2005 and 128 in 2004. The unit also 
executed 46 search warrants last year, compared to 37 in 2005 and 33 in 2004.

The figures were included in a review of the 2004-2006 Brantford 
police service business plan released in early January. The review 
included street crime statistics over a three-year period, beginning in 2004.

According to the report, the police street crimes unit has been "very 
successful over the past three years in targeting the perpetrators of 
drug crime and property crimes linked to illegal drugs."

Police say there are a lot more drugs available in the community, 
adding that public awareness and assistance have helped the street crimes unit.

"The demand for cocaine is constantly on the rise," said Sgt. Randy 
Batson. "The drug is addictive and because of that there are more 
homegrown and out-of-town drug traffickers operating in the city."

The street value of drugs hasn't changed much in recent years. 
Marijuana is worth about $10 a gram -- an amount roughly the size of 
a marble. Crack cocaine has actually dropped slightly in price 
because of the huge supply and is generally valued at $100 a gram.

Marijuana and crack cocaine are the drugs most often seized by the 
street crimes unit. Busting up a marijuana grow operation of between 
100 and 200 plants can result in a huge dollar figure of drugs 
seized, Batson said.

There has also been a change in strategy over the past couple of years.

"When the unit first formed, we went after street-level dealers but 
that didn't result in a large amount of drugs worth a lot of money," 
Batson said. "We've changed strategies and raised the bar to a higher 
standard, leading to larger drug seizures from higher-level dealers."

Members of the street crime unit receive ongoing training to keep up 
with trends and learn new investigative techniques. Uniformed 
officers are rotated through the street crimes unit to gain 
drug-investigation experience, which helps them make more significant 
observations when they return to regular patrol, he said.

Public awareness has also helped local efforts.

Drugs and youth crime were identified by the public as the top 
priorities for police in a community survey conducted in 2003.

2005 was dubbed "the year of the gun" in Toronto and Brantford had a 
weekend of violence in November of that year which included shootings 
and robberies.

"I think because of reports in the press that the public has become 
more aware and educated on drug activity in the city," Batson said. 
"The public is of great assistance to the street crimes unit. 
Intelligence gathering from the public through Crime Stoppers and 
other reports to police has increased dramatically."
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