Prince Albert’s top criminal investigator said a recent series of major drug busts are the result of increased enforcement, but acknowledged more illegal narcotics may be creeping onto P.A. streets.
“We’re seeing an increase in charges,” Inspector Jonathan Bergen, head of Prince Albert Police’s Criminal Investigation Division said. “Is that because there’s an increased drug problem in the community, or because there’s increased enforcement? That’s a tough question to answer.”
Bergen said the number of drug charges issued has risen by nearly 46 per cent over last year, but noted this may be the result of police stepping up their drug enforcement tactics.
“We have all areas of the police service responding to drugs in the community,” Bergen said. “Drug enforcement is a priority for the entire police service.”
Bergen said other numbers are a better indicator of drug use in the city.
“Property crime is a good indicator of where we’re at with drugs,” he said. “One of the root causes to property crime is drug use and drug addiction.”
According to the most-recently released police statistics, property crime increased roughly 17 per cent in 2016 across all areas. Break-and-enter charges increased by 19 per cent, while fraud jumped by nearly 65 per cent.
Whether the result of greater drug activity or better enforcement, P.A. police have made bigger drug busts than ever before. Most recently police made several arrests in connection with 11.25 kg of cocaine discovered in an unoccupied apartment back in August, which represents the largest cocaine seizure in the city’s history. Police also seized more than a kilogram of cocaine in November during an elaborate investigation which they say broke up a ring of traffickers moving cocaine to P.A. through Edmonton.
“Removing that eleven kilos should have a significant impact on the community and wherever those drugs were destined for,” Bergen said. “That’s significant not just to the city of Prince Albert, but to the province.”
The arrests that come with large drug investigations, Bergen said, have just as much impact as the seizures themselves because organized crime rings are rarely restricted to just one area.
“Removing those people that are responsible for trafficking those drugs should have an even greater impact,” he said. “The people that are responsible for moving these drugs, they’re not just responsible for these drugs just in Prince Albert.”
-With files from Nigel Maxwell
On Twitter: @TMacPhersonNews
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