Pubdate: Sat, 02 Aug 2008
Source: Victoria Times-Colonist (CN BC)
Copyright: 2008 Times Colonist
Author: Rob Shaw, Staff Writer
Bookmark: (Cocaine)


RCMP unsure if $27,000 in cocaine part of larger ring

It's the kind of drug seizure you'd expect to see in Victoria or
Nanaimo, but $27,000 worth of cocaine found in a single vehicle in the
tiny island village of Alert Bay?

RCMP made such a haul last Sunday, and say it's only the tip of the
iceberg of drug and alcohol abuse problems in the community.

Officers found the cocaine stash when they pulled over a 2007 GMC
Envoy pickup truck outside a known hangout for drug dealers, said
detachment commander Cpl. Ron Vlooswyk. A 35-year-old Alert Bay
resident was arrested and is now facing possession and trafficking
charges. He's set to appear in court Oct. 7.

That amount of cocaine could be made into 550 half-gram bags for sale
on the street, said Vlooswyk. It's a huge haul for the community of
only 1,400 people, located on Cormorant Island off Port McNeill.

"Any police officer is going to be surprised at that size," said
Vlooswyk. "I think the amount we seized is a decent size for any place.

"Every place has a drug problem, so we're not alone. But when we hit a
thing like that, it makes you wonder: Is it a one-off thing, or were
we lucky to hit the right spot at the right time?"

Police are aware of the long-standing addictions issues among both the
aboriginal and non-aboriginal people who live in Alert Bay. But
quantifying the number of users is hard because unlike alcohol abuse
- -- considered a far larger problem -- drug use isn't generally done
out in the open, said Vlooswyk.

This most recent bust was the culmination of bits and pieces of
information the four-member detachment had collected for months, said

Police rely heavily on the community to tell them what's going on, he
said, because RCMP policy says officers must rotate out of Alert Bay
every two years. When that happens, the tentative relationship of
trust between community and police must be rebuilt.

"This is our challenge because we don't know anybody," said Vlooswyk,
who has been in Alert Bay one year. "And people don't know us and
don't trust us. This is our problem, who the hell wants to talk to a

Mayor John Rowell has complained to the RCMP frequently about the
issue. "What happened to the village cop, who got to know everyone,
was respected and was a real help to the community?" Rowell asked.
"Some of these officers really want to stay."

However, even the long-term future of Alert Bay's four-person police
detachment remains in doubt. Both RCMP Island district managers and
staff representatives support the idea of closing it and consolidating
forces in Port McNeill -- 40 minutes away by ferry -- where a larger
pool of officers would make it easier to schedule training, holidays
and backup.

Alert Bay does have addiction treatment resources, including a program
through the 'Namgis First Nation Health Centre on the Island.
Administrator Georgia Cook said the centre is running at full capacity
and the community tolerance for drug and alcohol abuse has decreased
greatly over the past few years.

There are also regular community meetings, where people discuss drug
and alcohol problems in a group setting.

"It takes a while for people to figure out this behaviour is not OK
anymore," said Cook.

"We're just working at it one step at a time. We're not expecting
things to change overnight."
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MAP posted-by: Larry Seguin