Pubdate: Fri, 09 Feb 2018
Source: Winnipeg Free Press (CN MB)
Copyright: 2018 Winnipeg Free Press
Authors: Ryan Thorpe and Erik Pindera
Page: A3


Police seize 5.8 kg in January - half of what was seized in

MAKE no mistake: Winnipeg has a meth problem.

That's the message city police drove home Thursday at a lengthy news
conference, painting a dark picture of a city in the grips of a
methamphetamine epidemic and the strain placed on front-line services
that are trying to contain the street drug.

"The emergence of methamphetamine that we're experiencing in our
community is getting to the level where it's starting to keep me awake
at night," Winnipeg Police Service Chief Danny Smyth said.

The city's meth problem is getting worse, fast.

The situation isn't deteriorating just for users, but also cops,
paramedics and hospital workers.

In January, police said they took more than 5.8 kilograms of meth
(estimated street value: $580,000) off the streets. That's nearly half
the amount seized in all of 2017.

A hit of meth (one-tenth of a gram) goes for $10. The number of hits a
meth user consumes in one sitting varies widely.

Since 2016, meth busts have been on the rise in Winnipeg. Two years
ago, police made 490 seizures. Last year, the number jumped to 701. If
January is any indication of what's to come, 2018 could bring another
significant spike.

Meth use is now connected to nearly every call police respond to, said
Max Waddell, an inspector in the major crimes unit.

"In speaking to our front-line officers, they comment routinely that
when they go out to calls for service, either the victim, the
complainant and/or the accused are somehow attached to this drug,
methamphetamine. Can I say it's daily? Well, I don't have that stat,"
Waddell said.

"But I can tell you it is significantly impacting (our resources).
And, anecdotally, they're saying they see it at almost all the calls
they go to. It's out there... There is a trend before us."

Mike Millard, a former meth user who has been in recovery for 2 1/2
years, told the news conference that the drug destroyed him.

"What I can tell you about crystal meth is from the first or second
time I tried it, I never stopped," Millard said. "I never made a
mortgage payment again. I never paid for my driver's licence, hydro,
water. I just became fixated on it."

Millard's life turned around only after he hit rock bottom. Once he
was behind bars, he was able to start detoxification.

Police say four factors are driving the city's meth epidemic: it's
easy to make, it's available, it's cheap and it boasts a lasting high.

Two years ago, someone looking to buy one kilogram of meth on
Winnipeg's streets would have to shell out $55,000, police said. A
kilogram currently sells for $17,000.

A crack-cocaine user remains high for about 45 minutes after smoking
the drug, while a meth high can last for 14 hours. Hard-core meth
users report staying up for days - if not a week - when locked into a

About 80 per cent of the city's meth is imported (Mexican drug cartels
ship the drug to Chicago before it's smuggled north of the U.S.-Canada
border), while the remaining 20 per cent is made domestically (mostly
in British Columbia), Waddell said.

In December, police found a fully functional meth lab inside an
apartment complex on the 300 block of Kennedy Street. Police expect to
discover more local labs as drug dealers, attracted by the ease of
getting their hands on the over-the-counter ingredients needed to make
meth, get into the manufacturing game, Waddell said.

Data compiled by Health Canada - which analyzes all drug seizures by
police in the country - indicates Manitoba is a hotbed for the street

While marijuana, followed by cocaine, are the drugs most commonly
seized by Canadian police nationally, in Manitoba, meth is No. 1 - a
stance backed up by Statistics Canada data from 2012 to 2016 that show
a steady increase in arrests for meth possession and trafficking in
the province.

"It's been quietly building momentum. If truth be known, I would say
2016, where we saw the real emergence of fentanyl and carfentanil in
Winnipeg, honestly, that masked this methamphetamine user group that
was slowly building momentum," Waddell said.

"We know that until we can reduce the demand for meth, the supply will
continue to come into the city of Winnipeg. The community must work
together to provide education, addiction support and

In addition to the rise of meth use, needle use has reportedly grown
threefold in the past three years - about 1.5 million needles were
handed out by different groups in the city last year, compared to
500,000 three years before.

"These are largely needles being used for meth injection," said Rick
Lees, executive director of the Main Street Project, a local shelter
and support network for the city's homeless population.

Just like police, paramedics, nurses and doctors, Main Street
Project's addictions detox facilities are seeing an uptick in meth
users, Lees said.

When an addict goes to Main Street Project for help, they have to tell
staff what their drug of choice is in order safely detox. These days,
65 per cent of women and 52 per cent of men say it is meth.

"As little as three or four years ago, that would've been alcohol,"
Lees said.

The increase in needle use, the uptick in meth users detoxing at Main
Street Project, and data compiled by front-line emergency services all
point to one thing: meth is a major problem on the streets of Winnipeg.

"The common denominator is meth. This isn't just a guessing game,
there's some significant data behind it, The real stats are telling us
we have a real increase in meth," Lees said.

Police hope efforts to raise awareness about the city's growing
epidemic may lead to use of the deadly and addictive stimulant
levelling off. In addition, they're finalizing a new illicit drug
strategy focusing on enforcement, education and intervention - that
will roll out this spring.
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