Pubdate: Sat, 05 Dec 2009
Source: Nanaimo News Bulletin (CN BC)
Copyright: 2009, BC Newspaper Group
Author: Jenn Marshall, Nanaimo News Bulletin


Drugs are the root cause of the majority of criminal activity police
deal with.

"If you take away drugs, you'd eliminate 85 per cent of crime in our
society," said Const. Gary O'Brien, Nanaimo RCMP spokesman.

Once a person becomes hooked on drugs, they often enter into a life of
crime to feed their habit, a criminal lifestyle that can take years to

One of the biggest changes over the past 30 years has been the
increased potency of the drugs.

The Tetrahydro-cannabinol (THC) content, which is the main
psychoactive substance found in marijuana, has gone from around two or
three per cent in the 1970s to 16-20 per cent now.

"It's highly potent now," said O'Brien. "People have perfected the
harvest and cultivation of this product."

Synthetic "designer" drugs, such as ecstasy and crystal
methamphetamine, have had the most impact on society in recent years,
he added, because it takes less than 30 days to become fully addicted
and crystal meth is one of the hardest addictions to kick.

O'Brien said the most common drugs on Nanaimo streets are crystal
meth, marijuana, cocaine and heroin.

Nanaimo RCMP detachment has a full-time municipal drug squad of about
six members dedicated to street-level drugs. A six-member green team
spends its time discovering marijuana grow operations . Nanaimo also
has a criminal intelligence probe team, which tracks and monitors
organized crime and the importation and exportation of drugs.

O'Brien said as a hub city, Nanaimo is accessed by plane, ferry or
road, making it an ideal base for drug trade businesses.

"B.C. bud fetches a considerable dollar south of the border and
they're getting cocaine in return," he said, adding that often
marijuana is traded dollar for dollar for cocaine.

While considerable police resources are spent on enforcement, Nanaimo
RCMP also has a community education component.

Police officers begin educating students about the effects of drugs in
Grade 5 through the DARE (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) program.

In secondary school, officers reinforce their earlier teachings with
more detailed information about the effects of certain drugs or
related health problems that addiction causes.

In Grade 10, students are taken to Nanaimo Regional General Hospital
for the PARTY program, where they are taught about the consequences of
risky behaviour by nurses, paramedics, physicians, rehabilitation
specialists, police officers and injury survivors. Graphic details are
not spared.

The lesson is finished with Grade 12 students just before their high
school graduation and prom ceremonies with DRIVE (Demonstrating
Responsibility in Vehicle Education), which starts off with the
re-enactment of a crash scene, including actors in makeup and real
emergency personnel and vehicles.

O'Brien said with the Assertive Community Treatment team, a group of
about a dozen people with experience in the mental health and
addictions field, coming online in January, as well as the new
supportive housing projects that will be built over the next few
years, police will have access to a much wider support network.

"Often we get involved in a crisis situation," he said.

With the help of this team of professionals, O'Brien said officers
will have the information they need to better serve these individuals
in crisis.

Ultimately, he added, there may be less people in this crisis stage
where police must intervene because they are already being targeted by
the ACT team. 
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