Pubdate: Fri, 25 Jul 2014
Source: Kenora Daily Miner And News (CN ON)
Copyright: 2014 Kenora Daily Miner and News
Author: Alan S. Hale
Page: 3


Treaty Three Police's New Street Crime Unit Arrests Eight People at Powwow

Treaty Three Police arrested eight people at the Wuzhushk Onigum (Rat 
Portage) First Nation's powwow, five of whom have been charged with 
drug possession. The aboriginal police service says people can expect 
more of the same if they decide to bring illicit drugs and alcohol to 
powwows elsewhere in the Treaty 3 area this summer.

According to Treaty Three Police Detective Terry McCaffrey, the 
operation at Rat Portage's powwow was one of the first for the 
force's brand new Street Crime Unit, which was formed on July 1.

"This is comprised of our drug enforcement officer, our intelligence 
officer and our guns and gangs officer," said McCaffrey. "All three 
of those members have been working within their own mandates, but now 
we've sort of formalized them into a team so they can work together 
towards specific goals and responsibilities that we want them to focus on."

The Treaty Three Police wants the new street crime unit to use 
"community intelligence" work to improve the safety inside the 
region's reserve communities. McCaffrey said this is what led them to 
go to Rat Portage to do drug enforcement work at the powwow.

"We want to make sure that the criminal element does not disturb the 
peace of the gathering and the enjoyment of it by people who are 
there for its cultural purpose," said the detective.

Besides the arrest of eight people, the officers also seized a large 
- - but unspecified - amount of alcohol and marijuana.

"The arrests and seizures came from officers doing ride checks... and 
also the Street Crime Unit was proactively patrolling throughout the 
crowd and the public was bringing information to them. It was a 
number of things that brought it all together," said McCaffrey.

Drug busts at large public gatherings have become an increasingly 
rare occurrence in recent years. Many police forces across Canada use 
their discretion to either just keep the peace or seize illegal drugs 
and alcohol found at events such as concerts and festivals rather 
than arresting the perpetrators for simple possession.

In fact, it appears that police in Canada are becoming more hesitant 
to charge people for marijuana possession in general. According to 
data released by Statistics Canada last week, the amount of people 
that police catch with marijuana has risen from 130 people in every 
100,000 in 2003 up to 167 in 2013. But while the amount of people 
caught by police has increased, the number of people charged with 
possession has actually been falling. In 2012, 86 people in 100,000 
were charge with marijuana possession, but in 2013 it was 84. 
Continuing a downward trend since 2003.

Even though they were not asked to do so by the Wuzhushk Onigum band 
council, the Treaty 3 Police decided to actively go after people 
smoking marijuana or sneaking in alcohol because they say people want 
culturally-significant events such as powwows to be drug and alcohol-free.

"It's all about community concern," said McCaffrey. "The use of 
illicit drugs and the sale of them in cultural areas has been a 
concern for quite a while. So we are addressing those concerns and to 
let people know that this is not acceptable."

No one arrested on Powwow Island has been charged with trafficking, 
and McCaffrey didn't know how many first-time offenders there may be 
among the accused who could be facing a criminal record because of the arrests.

But the detective said people need to know that drugs and alcohol 
will not be tolerated at First Nation cultural events, and attendees 
at other powwows in the Treaty 3 area can expect the Street Crime 
Unit to be present.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom