Pubdate: Mon, 25 Jul 2016
Source: StarPhoenix, The (CN SN)
Page: A1
Copyright: 2016 The StarPhoenix
Author: Andrea Hill


Crystal meth use in Prince Albert is "out of control" and the 
situation could worsen in the next year, says a police officer who 
heads the city's crystal meth intervention program.

"We're so far behind it, we just need to get some kind of a grip on 
it," said Prince Albert Police Sgt. Troy Dumont.

"I go through the calls every day and I see more of it, more just 
basic calls when meth is kind of involved .... People are acting 
different, you can just tell. It is on the rise and we need to do 
something about it."

Dumont said he began noticing an increase in crystal meth use about 
18 months ago and immediately called his colleagues together to come 
up with a plan. Officers are now trying to connect crystal meth users 
to addictions services by either calling addictions workers to come 
to the users or giving users business cards with phone numbers for 
addictions workers.

"We're just trying to do what we can," Dumont said. "I know we can't 
solve it overnight, but we're going to slowly pick away and get to 
the people we can and then expand from there."

According to figures released by Statistics Canada last week, police 
in Prince Albert'a municipal and rural areas laid 25 charges for 
crystal meth possession and nine for crystal meth trafficking in 
2015. That's up from two years ago, when only two charges were laid 
for possession and six for trafficking.

Dumont was working with Prince Albert police when crystal meth came 
into the city for the first time about 10 years ago. Then, a handful 
of middle- and high-income people used thedrug. Police intensified 
enforcement, charging anyone they could with possession or 
trafficking. Eventually, crystal meth use in the city dissipated.

The spike in use that started last year is different, Dumont said. 
The drug is now cheaper and more readily available.

"Now this time it's right from upper class, middle class, lower class 
to street people that are using it and it has no barriers of race or 
age or anything," he said. "I would probably guesstimate we're in the 
upper of thousands and thousands and thousands of people who are 
using." Dumont said he's seen kids as young as 11 using crystal meth. 
People on the drug can be violent and incoherent. Many commit 
robberies so they can afford their next fix, which has resulted in a 
spike in break and enters in Prince Albert.

Police laid 744 break-and-enter charges in Prince Albert last year, 
up from 564 in 2013.

Those numbers helped Prince Albert land the number two spot on a 
Statistics Canada list that ranks Canadian centres based on their 
crime severity index, which is a number based on per capita crime and 
the severity of punishments.

The list, topped by North Battleford, contained 305 communities with 
populations of at least 10,000 people.

The high ranking was no surprise to Prince Albert Police Chief Troy 
Cooper, who attributed the city's high crime numbers to the "scourge 
of crystal meth."

"In Prince Albert, it's primarily crystal meth that's caused our 
issues around violence and robberies. There have been some other 
drugs as well, but that's a new drug to the community and we've seen 
a real impact," he said.

"It's really troubling for us to see a trend where violence and 
crimes that are associated with violence are increasing."

He said resources have been added to the police service's drug unit, 
and he's hopeful the increased pressure on users and dealers will 
eventually drive down meth-related crime.

Despite the extra boots on the ground and the community crystal meth 
intervention program, Dumont said he fears the worst is yet to come.

"We haven't seen the slightest effects of what crystal meth can do to 
communities and people," he said.

"That two-to three-year mark, that's when people start getting really 
sick, and that's when we're going to start seeing the real effects of it."

Police chiefs in Saskatoon and North Battleford have also raised 
concerns about the drug, and the violent crime it leaves in its wake. 
Dumont said he hopes the province develops a crystal meth task force, 
because the problem is bigger than the Prince Albert police can handle alone.

"When you're dealing with all the thefts that are on the increase 
from crystal meth use, and the robberies and the industrial thefts 
and you're busy with that kind of stuff, it kind of takes away your 
focus from being able to proactively target the meth users for 
possession or for trafficking or anything like that," he said.
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