Pubdate: Fri, 25 Sep 2015
Source: Victoria News (CN BC)
Copyright: 2015 Black Press
Author: Pamela Roth


Cracking down on illegal drugs is the number one crime police deal
with in Victoria, and cocaine continues to be the drug of choice on
city streets.

Every day, police come across dozens of people using cocaine or
smoking crack. Use and trafficking of the drug has been steady
throughout the years, forcing Staff Sgt. Connor King of the Victoria
police strike force unit to think about long-term solutions besides
just making arrests.

"From the police perspective, we think one of the big solutions is
education for young people and to prevent people from getting into
using drugs in the first place," said King. "There's a lot of focus on
harm reduction and we are in partnerships now with a lot of harm
reduction service providers."

According to King, crack cocaine is popular amongst street entrenched
drug users, but cocaine is used by all walks of life.

With illegal drugs also comes property crimes as drug addicts search
for ways to fund their addiction by breaking into homes and vehicles,
stealing whatever valuables they can find.

Although property crimes occur in neighbourhoods throughout Victoria
and Esquimalt, police see more downtown due to the dense population.
Expensive bikes have also been targeted by thieves.

"The bikes around here, they are thousands of dollars, so for our
local population that's a big deal," said Victoria police Chief Frank
Elsner, adding police also have a big push on gang activity.

"(They are) trying to get a foot hold here in Victoria and Esquimalt,
so we're on top of that making sure we keep that segment out."

In July, 16 people were charged with trafficking offences following an
undercover sting that targeted drug dealers selling around homeless
shelters. The six-week operation was in response to a dramatic
increase in drug dealing in front of the Rock Bay Landing shelter on
Ellice Street and Our Place drop-in centre on Pandora Avenue.

Most of the accused were members of the Nortenos street gang, which
has been growing in Victoria.

Heat from police has prompted some local dealers to move out of the
city, but Elsner said they still come in to drop off drugs.

King has noticed some of the large dealers from Vancouver come to
Victoria with large quantities of cocaine. Often they have ties with
organized crime. Middle level and small level drug dealers have also
set up shop, creating a never-ending battle for city police.

"Our goal is always to make Victoria an unattractive city in which to
conduct drug business and to focus on the drug dealers that are having
the greatest impact on the safety of our citizens, particularly when
it comes to violence," said King, noting there's a large amount of
violent crime associated with big cocaine dealers, which has been seen
throughout the Lower Mainland.

"We're lucky that we see a lesser amount of that, but we do see guns
and knife violence associated with cocaine dealing."
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