Over 2000 hits of cocaine were removed from city streets as the Drug Section of the RCMP ended the year with two significant seizures.
On Dec. 13, 2011, members of the Drug Section searched the residence of Michael Telford, a 31 year-old Fort St. John resident, where they allegedly discovered cocaine, ecstasy, marijuana, weapons and cash proceeds. He was arrested at the scene and held in custody.
Telford has since been charged with two counts of possession of cocaine for the purposes of trafficking, two counts of possession of a controlled substance, four counts of failing to comply with previous release conditions and three counts of possession of a weapon contrary to prohibition ordered.
He has been remanded in custody and is next scheduled to appear in court on Jan. 18.
On Dec. 31, 2011, drug section members investigated a man who was suspected of trafficking cocaine in the community. A 41 year-old resident of Fort St. John was arrested with cocaine in his possession.
Following the arrest, a search warrant was executed on his residence which lead to over 1 kilogram of cocaine being seized.
The accused was held in custody and later released. Numerous Controlled Drugs and Substance Act charges have been recommended against this individual and his next court appearance is scheduled for Mar. 7.
Members of the Drug Section say that although it may not sound like a significant amount was seized, the two seizures represent a major blow to the drug trade in Fort St. John and a win for the community.
"Any cocaine seizure or when we find people who are dealing those drugs is significant because it is an ongoing problem," said a Corporal with the drug section at the Fort St. John detachment.
"There is an ongoing issue with cocaine use and cocaine selling in Fort St. John and the more people we identify and charge for those offenses greatly reduces the risk to the community."
He explained that the one kilogram of cocaine that was seized on New Year's Eve represents 2,000 units of cocaine that are not being sold in the community. The overall value of the drugs is estimated between $100,000 - $120,000.
"You're potentially looking at 2000 less drug purchases being made because of this seizure," said Sergeant Steve Perret.
Keeping cocaine off the streets also helps prevent an array of other crimes that are related to the drug trade.
"A lot of times, people will go to whatever measures necessary to get their drug. That goes right from petty property crimes to, depending on the addict's need or want for the drug, more serious crimes."
Members of the drug section said the crimes can range from break-and-enters and small thefts, to assaults and robberies.
"Some of these addicts can have cocaine addictions up to several hundred dollars per day and without a job, there's only one way to get that money and that's through illegal means. So either they'll sell drugs to support their habit or they'll create property offences."
Perret explained that to obtain the drugs they want, addicts often trade stolen property from break-and-enters, such as electronics and jewelry. However, the trade value is very low and it puts them in to a cycle where they have to steal more to feed their addiction.
"For stolen property, they're typically trading it at a value of $0.10 on the dollar. So for a thousand dollar television that they have stolen, they're only getting $100 worth of drugs. Well, that represents a lot of stolen merchandise that they need to keep feeding their habit," said Perret.
The RCMP also seized a variety of weapons from their Dec. 13 search warrant, which is another win for the community according to the drug section.
"I can say from my experience that the vast majority of serious crime offenses stem from the drug trade," said Perret.
"With drug dealing, weapons and violence go hand-in-hand. Us targeting drug dealers isn't just removing people who are making money and doing business illegally, we're potentially targeting people that are prone to violence," said a Corporal with the Drug Section. "[The weapons] sole purpose of being possessed is for protection in the drug trade, which identifies how violent that business is."
In addition to the two recent seizures, the section said they have made great strides in reducing drug-related crime in Fort St. John and will continue to do so in 2012.
"The City of Fort St. John has identified drug dealing as one of the core issues plaguing the community, so we've incorporated that into our crime reduction initiative," said Perret. "And it isn't just our drug unit targeting the drug trade in town. It's a detachment-wide initiative where all the units in this building are in some way involved in tackling the drug problem in the community. "
The drug section said that they have a plan in place that involves the entire detachment. Although the section spends much of their time investigating and targeting the drug trade, crime reduction and general duty officers help to ensure a continuing focus on identified people to make sure they don't continue with their offenses.
"Without constant focus on these offenses and these people involved, the offenses will continue," said a Corporal with the drug section.
The crime reduction unit also works closely with mental health providers in the community to hit the core of the problem.
"Our Crime Reduction Unit does work closely with mental health and community corrections to try and tackle that problem to get people out of that cycle of committing crime to fuel their habit and to get them in to treatment programs," said Perret.
The Drug Section said that they also spend a lot of time in the community taking a proactive approach to the drug trade to prevent problems before they begin.
"We attribute a lot of the drug issue in Fort St. John to the demographics of a young population with higher than average disposable incomes," said a Corporal with the Drug Section. "But if we can limit the demand for the drug then we'll limit the supply coming in to the city. It's like any enterprise - it's supply and demand."
One of the ways the detachment is trying to prevent drug issues before they start is through their Drug Abuse Resistance Education (DARE) program that they administer in schools.
"Our police officers go into schools and try to teach kids about the dangers of drug use. Hopefully by educating the next generation, that will go a long way to reducing drug use," said Perret.
The other thing that RCMP relies heavily on to both prevent and stop drug-related crime is tips from the public.
"Another tool we utilize to curb what's going on in Fort St. John is the input that the public provides to us. We receive numerous complaints and anonymous tips about what's going on in the community, and that's a huge asset to us as well. We rely on those a lot," said a Constable with the Drug Section.
The section pointed out that neighbors and friends are in the best position to watch out for warning signs of drug-related crime when it comes to dealers in the community as they can be quite transient.
Suspicious activity such as increased traffic to a residence that mostly consists of short visits, unexplained income or even consistent strange smells such a marijuana are all warning signs of the drug trade that the RCMP hopes people will report to them.
"We document everything that comes in and a lot of time those tips can be used that day or maybe six months or a year down the road. The value sometimes isn't really known at the time, but it can be huge down the road. Sometimes it's that one small piece of a puzzle that completes it or gives us the ability to link everything together," said a Constable with the Drug Section.
The section said that any community in Fort St. John can be affected by the drug trade and tips from the public are instrumental in allowing them to identify drug dealers and take them off of city streets.
The overall pay-off to the community is huge, according to Perret, and can be seen in the form of increased community safety and health.
If community members have any information about drug trafficking in the community, please contact the Fort St. John RCMP at 250-787-8140.
For people who wish to remain anonymous, please call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477.They are open 24/7 and tips can also be left anonymously online at www.crimestoppersnebc.ca. No name, address or telephone number is required and tip providers will not have to appear in court. A cash reward of up to $2000 will be paid for any information that leads to an arrest or charge.