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Drug trafficking, impaired driving charges up

Fort St. John recorded significant spikes in drug trafficking and impaired driving charges in 2019, which the city's police commander says is good news and the result of more proactive policing.
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CFSEU laid out its seizures after a months-long investigation.

Fort St. John recorded significant spikes in drug trafficking and impaired driving charges in 2019, which the city's police commander says is good news and the result of more proactive policing.

Cocaine trafficking charges skyrocketed 700% last year, up to 86, while the number of fentanyl trafficking charges was up 200% to nine.

"Almost all drug investigations are proactive investigations … they're not phoned into us," said Insp. Tony Hanson. "If our numbers are up it's because my drug unit and my general duty units are doing more proactive work."

There were 11 cocaine trafficking charges in 2018, and Hanson attributed the significant rise last year to simple traffic stops where drugs were found inside the vehicle.

There were nine fentanyl trafficking cases last year, up 200% from three files in 2018; meanwhile, the number of people charged for possession doubled to 24. Those increases aren't surprising, Hanson said.

"The majority of hard drugs in the community now are opioid derivative or meth derivative, or a combination of the two," Hanson said.

There were no cannabis possession and trafficking offences last year because of legalization, but Hanson said officers have been enforcing regulations, with one person ticketed in February for smoking cannabis in a public space.

Another piece of good news: the number of drug overdoses plummeted by more than half, down from 26 in 2018 to 11 in 2019.

"That's probably due to several factors: education, some of the work Northern Health is doing in terms of work with addicts, safe needles, injections," Hanson said.

"But also probably because we've had some stability in the opioid supply here that's perhaps been a bit of a higher quality, but that could change tomorrow and we don't control that."

The number of impaired drivers either criminally charged or issued immediate roadside bans jumped 23% last year to 357 charges.

Hanson said he doesn't believe that's because more people are driving drunk or high, but because officers are being proactive.

"We’re out there hunting for them. Some of them are phoned in but even then we have to go and find them," Hanson said.

The number of 24-hour suspensions and warnings were down slightly because officers are choosing to give the maximum.

Forty-one of the charges last year involved drugs. Hanson said the detachment continues to train officers on how to detect and test drugged drivers.

"Opioids are quite detrimental in terms of operating a motor vehicle," he said.

Drugs:
(2018 total)

Cocaine trafficking - 86 (11)
Cannabis possession - 0 (29)
Cannabis trafficking - 0 (1)
Fentanyl/other possession - 24 (12)
Fentanyl/other trafficking - 9 (3)
Drug overdose - 11 (26)

Impaired drivers:
(2018 total)

Criminal Code & Immediate Roadside Prohibitions - 357 (275)
MVA 24 hrs/7 day/30 day warning - 50 (53)

Email Managing Editor Matt Preprost at editor@ahnfsj.ca. 

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