Pubdate: Mon, 27 Oct 2008
Source: Edmonton Journal (CN AB)
Copyright: 2008 The Edmonton Journal
Author: Elise Stolte, Staff Writer


Community Rallies After Mountie Slaying Last Year

EDMONTON - Tattered blue remembrance ribbons still flutter from light
posts in downtown Hay River, N.W.T., and bold "Drug Free Community"
signs hang in business windows.

On downtown street corners and in the shadows, however, the drug deals

This northern community, 85 kilometres north of the N.W.T.-Alberta
border, woke up to the reality of drugs in their community one year
ago, when RCMP Const. Chris Worden was gunned down across the street
from a neighbourhood notorious for cocaine trafficking.

In the wake of that shooting death, it seemed the whole town stood up
and committed itself to driving drug dealers out of town. They packed
the community hall two weeks after the shooting, and former mayor
Duncan McNeill declared, "We're going to hound them until they bloody
well change or leave the community."

One year later, he's still dedicated to that end. "We can't look for a
quick answer," he says. "It doesn't exist.

"We're losing our sense of who we are and what we want to be. Whatever
comes easiest is what's grabbed."

Crack cocaine joined marijuana as a drug of choice here 10 years ago.
It's brought in by drug runners for the Crazy Dragons, says RCMP Cpl.
Ron Prangnell, head of the Hay River detachment.

The detachment has almost a dozen trafficking and possession cases
going through the court system at any one time. Neither the case load,
nor the violence associated with unpredictable addicts, has decreased
since Worden's death.

"We are getting more interest and tips from the public," Prangnell
says. "I think they're resigned to the fact it's a long-term problem."

Last spring, Sheila Ryan-Hachey and Jill Taylor organized efforts to
survey 250 town residents aged 12 to 19 on behalf of an interagency

They found 44 per cent of teenagers reported using marijuana in the
last month and 58 per cent reported drinking. The average age to start
experimenting with marijuana was 12.

Even though those numbers put the town right around the national
average, Taylor was shocked, she says.

"It seems so young for people to be experimenting."

The team is focused on getting more information about the dangers of
drug use into students' hands, hoping to cut the problem by destroying
the market for drugs. The youth survey also solicited ideas for how to
reduce drug use. They recommended a poster contest and, in the next
couple weeks, 10 posters will be selected and reproduced for the area

The secondary school also decided to open its gym for pickup
basketball and floor hockey Friday nights to give young people more
activity choices.

Taylor volunteered to supervise the inaugural evening scheduled for
this past Friday, but recruiting more volunteers won't be a problem,
she says.

"No matter what suggestion has been put out, it's been seized

Taylor's group has already distributed about 100 lawn and window signs
with anti-drug messages and made more available now at the local
grocery. The signs are in addition to a church-sponsored T-shirt
campaign -- Youth Action Against Drugs -- that has sold nearly 300,
says organizer Glenn Davis.

Teachers at the high school are wearing the shirts every Friday. The
school is also trying to bring in mentorship programs and
inspirational speakers, evening sessions for parents on drug use.

The seven-member RCMP detachment now has an officer trained in the
internationally recognized D.A.R.E., a drug education program, and has
re-introduced school resource officers for each school.

"There's so much potential with the energy we have in the community,"
says Mayor Jean-Marc Miltenberger. "The passion I don't think has
diminished at all."

The town has a site picked out for a permanent memorial and park to
honour Worden.

They've been considering a curfew, an idea that was brought up at the
town meeting last year. In fact, Hay River has had a curfew bylaw on
the books since 1951. It just needs to be updated to outline what age
groups will be restricted for which hours, says Miltenberger.

But the similar-sized town of Inuvik tried the same thing almost a
year ago and had major problems with enforcement, he says. "It's not
as easy as everyone thinks."

A 23-year-old Edmonton resident, Emrah Bulatci, was charged with
first-degree murder in connection with Worden's death. He is awaiting
a trial date.
- ---
MAP posted-by: Larry Seguin