Pubdate: Fri, 16 Sep 2016
Source: London Free Press (CN ON)
Copyright: 2016 The London Free Press
Author: Jennifer O'Brien
Page: A1


Cops say drug scourge, trend-busting 2015 spike in thefts from
vehicles downtown may be linked

As crime drops in London, one offence is stubbornly bucking the trend
in some areas of the city and defying its nationwide decline. Police
believe they know what's driving that.

Relentless reports of thefts from vehicles downtown seem to correlate
with crystal meth addiction that's taking a heavy toll on the health
of many Londoners, police say.

"There appears to be a correlation between the increased use of
crystal meth and the increase in these offences," police said in 2015
crime statistics presented to the police services board Thursday.

Overall, thefts from vehicles did decrease last year in the

But that was due mainly to a decline in the White Oaks and Masonville
areas, since vehicle break-ins remained rampant in the city 's core,
police said.

Police identified 28 "prolific offenders" while investigating thefts
from vehicles.

Of those, all but one were addicted to crystal methamphetamine and
hydromorphone, the report says. Strong and highly addictive, and a
growing scourge in many cities, crystal meth is a form of
methamphetamine commonly made in illegal labs. Its link to petty crime
is just the latest in a long list of effects the street drug has had
in London.

The drug gained a London foothold after OxyContin opioid pills,
another popular streetdrug, were taken off the market in 2012,
outreach workers say. Studies at the time showed London had Ontario's
highest per-capita opioid use and overdoses were off the charts.

With Oxy no longer easily available, addicts turned to cheaper,
easyto-get crystal meth, observers say. Alcoholics also have turned to
the drug, because it's so cheap and easy to get in London, they say.

Health, addiction and social workers have grappled with how to support
crystal meth addicts.

In the last year, some agencies have changed how they accept those in
need. At least one emergency shelter cut the number of beds it offered
as staff and volunteers learned how to help those high on crystal meth
while still supporting other clients. In London last year, the ratio
of those charged with meth-related offences ran to more than 28 people
per 100,000, compared to 17 people per 100,000 in Windsor and nine per
100,000 in Hamilton.

Deputy Chief Daryl Longworth acknowledged there are many charges
related to the drug, and said the force is trying to focus more on
those on "higher levels that are actually bringing in" crystal meth.

"(Officers are) trying to keep the focus on where it's coming from,
and not just target the users," he said. "Unfortunately, what we see a
lot of with users is those who are suffering from addiction."

Police statistics also showed a spike in charges related to possessing
crystal meth last year, second only to those involving cannabis.

"That is concerning. I'd like to see us, as a community, have a
strategy and readiness to address (crystal meth addiction), plus drug
use in the community in general," said Coun. Stephen Turner, a police
board member.

Unlike opioids, which are depressants that slow down the body,
including breathing, crystal meth is a stimulant. It alters the
brain's neurotransmitters, causing a euphoric feeling. It also packs
serious side-effects, including anxiety, paranoia, seizures and
stroke-like symptoms.

The federal Justice Department has long identified a link between
crystal meth addiction and community crime, both violent and petty.

A 2007 report on the government's website says "high-speed pursuits,
property crimes and identity thefts," increase where crystal meth use
is prevalent.

The report says many such crimes are committed to get money to feed
drug habits, but some crimes - such as dangerous driving, vandalism,
assault and threatening behaviour - "appear to be a result of the
state that the methamphetamine user is in after consuming the drug."

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About crystal meth

* Short for crystal methamphetamine

* Easily manufactured, white, crystalline drug

* Cheap to buy, $10 a hit on the street

* Can be snorted, smoked or injected

* A stimulant, causes a euphoric rush
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