Pubdate: Wed, 25 Aug 2010
Source: Fort Saskatchewan Record, The (CN AB)
Copyright: 2010 Osprey Media
Author: Tessa Clayton


Illegal drug activity is on the rise in the city, according to Fort
Saskatchewan RCMP statistics.

In 2005, there were eight charges laid. That number quadrupled to 35
charges in 2006 and increased to 53 in 2007. It dropped in 2008, down
to 36 charges, but it was back up again last year, with 58 drug
charges laid.

"From 2005 to 2006 when it quadrupled, that's a big concern," said
Const. Brian McLeod, media liaison with the Fort Saskatchewan RCMP.
"And the fact that 2008 to 2009 (saw) a 50 per cent increase is a
concern too. We certainly don't want to see that kind of a jump when
the 2010 stats come in."

McLeod said it's hard to say why there were large increases in 2007
and 2009.

"Some of it could be reporting and some people are just becoming more
aware," he said, adding that in 2009 there were 216 reports of drug
activity, but only 58 of those resulted in charges.

The RCMP have identified illegal drugs as a concern within the city
and feel that education is key to combating and preventing the issue
from growing.

"It's kind of a drain on everybody because anybody that has to support
a drug habit needs money," McLeod said.

"It filters down to thefts from vehicles, break and enters to houses,
garages, and eventually - if you start dealing with traffickers and
some higher end things - it can get potentially violent.

"We've all heard of the bullets flying in Edmonton and, heaven forbid,
that were to start here."

Which is why programs like the Drug Abuse Resistance Education (DARE)
and community support are key in tackling this problem, McLeod said.

The biggest help the public can provide is reporting any suspicious
activity, whether that be a parked vehicle or home that gets frequent
visitors all hours of the day or frequent meetings between people on
the street that last for fewer than five minutes.

"If the public sees stuff like that, that's probably the biggest help
for us. And even if we can't get there while it's going on, if it's
documented we know where to watch, or our plainclothes guys can target
a certain area," he said.

But even after a complaint has been made, McLeod said that drug
investigations take time to complete.

"We don't want the public to think that nothing's being done just
because they don't see immediate results. Drug investigations can take
months or more," he said.

"Just because someone doesn't see a police car parked on their street
anymore, or they want one there, that doesn't mean that the case isn't
being worked on.

"The general investigation (section) is always looking at different
activities that are going on and those are usually the guys you never
see until they're knocking on your door with a search warrant. And by
then, they've usually got all their ducks lined up."

The home that was busted in July as a marijuana grow-op in the Fort
was part of a year-long investigation into illegal drugs, which led to
one of the largest marijuana seizures in the province's history.

RCMP recommend locking vehicles and keeping things out of sight so as
not to tempt those who would steal property to sell to support drug
habits. Security videos and cameras could be invaluable to businesses,
said McLeod.

"Zero's the target but all we can do is keep working and if the public
helps us and the businesses help us with whatever information they
have when something happens, that's the only way we're going to put a
dent in it anyways." 
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