HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html Opiates, Meth Pose Big Problem For Police
Pubdate: Wed, 26 Jul 2017
Source: Medicine Hat News (CN AB)
Copyright: 2017 Alberta Newspaper Group, Inc.
Author: Peggy Revell
Page: A3


A "huge spike" in opiate and methamphetamine seizures this past year
poses a deadly and multifaceted problem for local law enforcement,
says a police inspector.

"We are hugely concerned with meth," said Insp. Brent Secondiak,
speaking about the 2016 annual police report released last week.

In 2016, police seized 52.5 grams of heroin and 1,474 grams of meth, a
563 per cent and 300 per cent increase from 2015 respectively.

While fentanyl has made headlines across Canada for its deadliness,
Secondiak said it hasn't been a problem in Medicine Hat compared to
other drugs.

"We have one big trafficker in jail who was responsible for one large
seizure in 2014," he said. In 2014, 806 pills were seized, 615 in 2015
and 30 in 2016.

Cocaine seizures remain relatively constant - with 2,811 grams seized
in 2014, 2,525 in 2015, and 2,674 in 2016.

Many people police dealt with when crack cocaine was the "drug of
choice" are now using meth, said Secondiak.

"It's very concerning that the drug of choice has switched to these
two drugs, specifically meth because of the dangers surrounding it."

Part of meth's appeal is a longer high, running anywhere from half a
day to a couple of days, he said. But those high on the drug tend to
be more incoherent, act more irrationally, and more violently.

So it falls on police to take people into custody when a call comes
in, he explained, as they can't risk leaving the person on the street,
or taking them to the hospital or recovery centre.

"We don't want them in our cells, but there's nowhere else to put

It's also created a nuisance, as those high and in custody have done
things like smear feces over the cells, or wreck the sprinklers and
cause flooding. EMS responders have to frequently be called to the
remand centre to treat people.

Naloxone spray - which can reverse the effects of an overdose - was
originally given to officers for their own safety, but has since been
used by officers over a dozen times to save the lives of members of
the public.

A range of strategies are being used to address the issue of drugs in
the community.

"Our ALERT team is targeting many of the high level traffickers for
opiates and methamphetamine," said Secondiak. They've also realized
they can't just focus on enforcement, he said, and have hosted
education sessions for youth and the community.

Police and AHS have since created a "Police and Crisis Team" for
addressing calls to do with mental health, but Secondiak said PACT has
moved towards addressing addictions as well.

It's trying to identify people who have addictions, and making sure
they have access to resources for treatment, he said.

"People who are using these drugs, it's very difficult to stop this
cycle. Sometimes incarcerating them is the only way to break the
cycle," he said, adding that there's not much police can do if the
person isn't willing to take that first step. "We can't force them
into treatment." Many users are desperate for money, which means they
turn to trafficking, said Secondiak, adding that while high-level
traffickers do often have addiction issues, they're also "there to
make a profit off it too."

Hopefully, he said, the police can get treatment for the people who
need treatment "and those who profit off of the misery of others,
hopefully we can get them significant jailtime."
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