Pubdate: Mon, 28 Jun 1999
Source: Prince Rupert Daily News (B.C., Canada) - June 25, 1999
Contact:  Edward Walton


Prince Rupert has a hardcore drug problem teetering on the edge of a
seriousness which, if not dealt with in a timely fashion, could severely
impact the city's youth within the next year, a panel of experts told a
crowd of more than 300 people last night. But with committed local
involvement and a consistent affirmation of how important youth are to the
well-being of the community, the problem can be subdued before it gets out
of hand.

That was the message of Const. Rob McGirr and youth advocate Jerome Bouvier,
two Port Moody drug experts who helped significantly diminish alarming rates
of heroin use among that city's young adults. The two spoke last night at
the city's first Communities Against Drugs forum, a local initiative to rid
Prince Rupert of what one panelist called "the merchants of misery" - local
drug dealers. "I don't believe, based on the information I've heard, that
your city's drug problem was as bad as ours," McGirr told the crowd. "We
don't believe the exposure to hardcore drugs is as pervasive within your
young people as it was within ours."

However, McGirr and others emphasized the imperative to tackle the problem
now rather than later when drug trends worsen and the situation becomes

Currently, where once a drug like heroin was verboten and shunned by youth
because of its association with needles and disease, methods of smoking the
drug are making it more acceptable as a recreational drug, said McGirr.
Coupled with more intricate methods of distribution, it is now easier than
ever before for teens to obtain more dangerous drugs, he explained. While
many at the forum, including former mayor Peter Lester, questioned RCMP
representatives as to what they were doing to curb the city's drug problem,
especially in dealing with reported local drug houses, McGirr said more
community involvement is as much the answer as increased policing. "If you
leave it up to the police, the bottom line is: Your pockets aren't deep
enough to pay for the policing that's necessary for them to deal with this
issue on their own," he said.

RCMP Const. Mike Legault, the vice-chair of the Communities Against Drugs
committee, said drug enforcement officers are hobbled by judicial red tape
which makes such things as obtaining a search warrant difficult without
concrete evidence.

Whereas the circumstantial evidence of citizens' observations helps and
should be encouraged, a first-hand witness is required for most search
warrants, he said.

Although few concrete solutions came out of the meeting, much was gathered
in terms of plans for action, said Legault, who's also the RCMP's community
policing officer.

These will likely take the form of lobbying for legislative changes to drug
laws, petitioning for a federal drug awareness officer and forming a shadow
committee of youth to help advise the Communities Against Drugs team.

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