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Overdoses from illicit drug use remain a concern in Swift Current

Posted on 12 May 2022 by Matthew Liebenberg

By Matthew Liebenberg

Overdoses from illicit drug use continues to be a concern for the RCMP in Swift Current after a fatality occurred in February.

Staff Sgt. Evan Gordon, the commanding officer of the Swift Current municipal RCMP detachment, referred to the number of recent overdoses during the presentation of the quarterly community policing report at a regular City council meeting, May 2.

“This a bit of a continuing area of concern for us in the city, carrying over from last year,” he said.

There were nine overdoses in the city from January to March, including a fatal overdose that occurred on Feb. 20.

“Two of those involved prescription medication,” he said. “The other seven involved what I would term street level drugs, those that are not prescribed obviously, not over the counter medication.”

He spoke about the RCMP’s goal to take the necessary enforcement action against illicit drugs, but he also referred to the resources available in the community for individuals who use drugs.

“We want to highlight not just the enforcement action that we are taking on those folks that are peddling the drugs in the city, but also as an educational information for the people that find themselves in this position with no other option but to use these drugs,” he said.

He noted that take home naloxone kits are available as well as drug testing strips, which is something new for communities outside Saskatoon and Regina.

“Community Health at the E.I. Wood building has access to drug test strips, and we have seen it here locally and I would say it’s across the board in western Canada,” he said.

These drug test strips can be used to check for traces of fentanyl and other potentially toxic opioids in drugs.

“The tainting of these street level drugs with other substances counteract the effectiveness of naloxone,” he said. “So in order to get out ahead of that, we want people to know that if you have no choice but to use these drugs, at least make sure that they’re what you think they are and not tainted with some other toxic substance.”

Gordon also spoke about other details from the policing statistics for the period January to March. There was a total of 1,048 incidents reported for the three-month period, which was exactly the same number as for the initial three months of 2021. He remarked that this was quite unusual.

“I don’t know if I’ve actually ever seen this before, but exactly the same number of total occurrences at this time as we had last year of 1,048 until the end of March,” he said.

He highlighted some of the notable trends in the data for this initial three-month period of 2022, but overall there were no significant changes in the data.

“Person crimes we’ve seen a decrease, which is always good,” he said. “Areas that we saw a small increase were reportable vehicle accidents. … We did have some fairly terrible weather on a couple of occasions. So that could have accounted for the increase and some of the more minor vehicle accidents. There were seven injury accidents compared to two the previous year, but comparable to seven two years ago. So really the numbers didn’t spike in any area too drastically.”

There were five incidents of mischief at one local business in the city during January and February, but persistent investigation work resulted in the arrest of an individual. Officers had to follow up on multiple leads and also used several non-standard evidence gathering methods.

“All of that eventually lead to a search warrant and discovery of evidence that led to charges against a local male,” he said. “I highlight this, because sometimes it is difficult for the public to see that the police are acting. We’re not able to always bring things to a conclusion as quickly as we all would like, but bear in mind that there are constraints and legislative boundaries that we can’t cross and we have to do things the right way, and sometimes that does take a little bit of time. But no crime is too small, and this is a good example of the hard work that the officers put into every file.”

He added that crimes against persons are considered to be more serious, because there are victims who might suffer physical injuries. At the same time, it does not mean that property crimes cannot be damaging.

“We don’t pick and choose,” he said. “We don’t see one as more worthy of investigation than the other and every file and every investigation gets the honest effort that is due.”

The detachment’s Police and Crisis Team (PACT) worker Karla Rempel has remained busy during this reporting period.

“In that three-month period, she had 45 calls that she attended to, and that doesn’t include her referrals,” Gordon said. “The rate of calls to referrals was something in the neighbourhood of two to one for referrals to calls. So she is staying busy, definitely more than one call per shift that she’s going to with our members and she continues to be an excellent resource for the City.”

The Swift Current RCMP and other emergency services responded to a fire at the west entrance of the Swift Current Comprehensive High School on March 10. It resulted in the evacuation of the building, but there were no injuries. He felt this incident highlighted the effectives of inter-agency cooperation between the different emergency services.

“An event like the fire at the school happened and there really wasn’t any time to communicate,” he said. “When I arrived on the scene it was amazing to see. Fire was doing their job, ambulance identified an area that needs to be blocked off and they were doing that, and we showed up and filled in the rest of the gaps. Very seamless, and I think it was a testament to the interagency cooperation that you have here in the city.”

The Swift Current RCMP detachment’s annual performance plan for 2021-22 concluded at the end of March. The new detachment action plan, which identified community policing priorities through consultation with City council, came into effect in April.

Drug use will again be a top priority, with the two pillars of enforcement and awareness. Traffic safety, including distracted driving and impaired driving, will be another priority. The third priority is preventing and reducing crime involving youth.

Gordon said the detachment also identified staff training as an additional focus area. The intention is to provide opportunities for officers to receive hands-on, in-person training. He noted that training has become a challenge during the COVID-19 pandemic. Virtual training sessions have become more prevalent, but there is a limit to what can be done online.

“It just isn’t the same as in person, especially when a lot of our training has to do with physical manipulation of use of force options and physical contact with people,” he said. “So we’re hoping to get some of our members more involved in training and in specific areas that will speak to some of the issues identified by the City, such as standardized field sobriety testing as well as drug recognition expert testing and child interviewing, just to name a few.”

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