Pubdate: Thu, 15 Sep 2016
Source: Winnipeg Free Press (CN MB)
Copyright: 2016 Winnipeg Free Press
Author: Katie May
Page: A3


Price, availability, addictiveness appeal to young people, police

THE city's youth are fuelling a surge in methamphetamine use because
it's a cheaper way to get a long-lasting high.

In fact, "because of its affordability, addictive nature and
accessibility, the methamphetamine user base in Winnipeg has increased
significantly over a few short years, allowing traffickers to
prosper," the Winnipeg Police Service said in a statement.

Sadly, both police and health officials don't expect the situation to
get better any time soon.

"Because of these factors, we believe and expect this trend will
continue," the WPS statement said.

Shelley Marshall, a clinical nurse specialist with the Winnipeg
Regional Health Authority's Street Connections program, said the
program's clients and local youth agencies have been reporting meth
use has been on the rise for at least the past two years. Younger drug
users, and users of other stimulant street drugs such as crack
cocaine, are turning to meth because it's cheaper, more accessible and
can provide a high for up to 12 hours - compared with a 30-minute high
for crack cocaine, which costs twice as much.

"It's cheap, and the high lasts a long time, so there's a lot about
the properties that resonate with the wants of youth who use the
drug," she said.

"It kind of increases your sense of meaning and purpose and increases
your engagement in almost everything you do," Marshall added. "When
you have exclusion from meaningful modes of production in society,
like no access to a job, family's broken up, children apprehended, and
you don't have meaning in your everyday life, meth becomes sort of an
instant replacement for a sense of purpose and engagement."

The impact of meth use has been reflected in Manitoba's criminal
justice system - most recently in a case in which the accused and the
victim were both using the highly addictive synthetic street drug.

A 30-year-old crystal meth addict convicted of sexually assaulting a
14-year-old girl and threatening her with a blowtorch was released
from jail Tuesday, bound by strict conditions including a court order
not to use illegal drugs.

Nicholas Raymond Serbyniuk was sentenced to 2 1/2 years in custody
followed by 2 1/2 years of supervised probation. He pleaded guilty on
the day his trial was set to begin to sexual assault and assault with
a weapon stemming from his drug-fuelled encounter with the underage
girl in June 2014. He was freed after sentencing being given 1 1/2
days' credit for each day he had served in custody since his arrest.

In asking Justice Joan McKelvey to impose a probation condition
barring Serbyniuk from using drugs, the Crown said Serbyniuk needed to
seriously address his abuse of crystal methamphetamine - a form of
meth he started using when he was only 13.

"We see the results of this particularly pernicious drug all too often
in our courts," Crown attorney Mitchell Lavitt said, noting users
often make bad decisions that land them in front of a judge.

"In this case, it led (Serbyniuk) to a significant period of
incarceration, which would have been avoided if he'd simply been sober
on the night in question."

Then 28, Serbyniuk met the 14-year-old girl outdoors during the
Winnipeg Pride parade. He didn't know she was under 18, he told court,
but took her back to his place, where they drank beer, got high on
crystal meth and had sex - to which she was too young to legally
consent. The next day, "after the high had worn off," Serbyniuk became
enraged thinking the girl had stolen some of the drugs. He lit a
propane blowtorch and threatened her, "saying he was going to burn her
eyes out," Lavitt told court. He wouldn't let her leave and took her
eyeglasses and iPad, but eventually she escaped and called police.
Charges against him for forcible confinement, uttering threats, theft
and sexual interference were stayed.

Lavitt told court he had previously met with the victim, whom he
described as a bright young woman from a troubled background. She was
living in foster care and appeared to be "on the mend" prior to
Serbyniuk's sentencing, but she couldn't be called in to give a
victim-impact statement because "she has gone essentially AWOL" and is
believed to have recently started using crystal meth again.

"It's not clear whether this particular thing set her off, or
something else," Lavitt told court.

Serbyniuk prays daily for the girl and her family, he told court,
saying he's sorry for what he put her through.

"I really wish there was a way I could apologize to the victim and her
family," he said, telling court he's done some "soul-searching" while
incarcerated and doesn't want to get himself into trouble again. "To
know what I did, it's just really hard to accept," he added.

"I just want to say sorry, and I hope she's OK."

Serbyniuk "has a new outlook on life. He wants to live a clean life,"
defence lawyer Brett Gladstone said, noting he has applied for
treatment at a rehab centre.

But he told court his client is still struggling with drug addiction
and expressed concern a court order to abstain from drugs might set
him up to fail or prevent him from getting help if he slips up.
Justice McKelvey ultimately imposed the order, with an exception that
allows Serbyniuk to drink alcohol only in his own home. She said the
condition was necessary as an "incentive" for him to get sober, as
well as for the protection of the community.

Police expect the relative popularity of meth in Winnipeg to continue
as long as the price stays low and it remains easily accessible. The
man-made drug is primarily smuggled into Manitoba from British
Columbia and sold in Winnipeg at a consistently "very high quality and
purity," the Winnipeg Police Service's organized crime unit said in an
emailed statement. Drug busts over the past two months have led city
police to seize more than eight kilograms of meth with a street value
of about $800,000, "only a fraction of the methamphetamine being
distributed in Winnipeg," WPS said.

But encounters with the criminal justice system can often lead to more
problems for young meth users, Marshall said.

"The situation of youth today is not an easy road, and crystal meth
offers something from the perspective of youth, they get this sense of
engagement in everything they're doing when they use it. So it's hard
to dispel that benefit," she said.

"If the community is concerned about meth, we should really be
concerned about youth and what they actually have available to them -
that's where we need to build. Rather than pulling people out of the
river, we should fix the bridge so they stop falling off in the first
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