Just because the Quesnel RCMP is seizing more drugs, doesn’t mean crime is on the rise, according to the leader of the Crime Reduction Unit.
Corporal Matt Isaak said the unit has seized nearly $85,000, 972 grams of fentanyl, 801 grams of cocaine and 2,872 grams of meth in the past year. Isaak said the street value of those drugs is around $340,000.
“The fear is there has been an increase in that kind of activity, but it’s actually not,” he said. “The spotlight is shone on it, and there’s a bit more clarity in terms of what’s there.”
The four-person unit has been busy, at least when it comes to drug seizures, thanks to an increase in resources in the last year.
“I don’t think the drug trafficking scene has changed all that much, it’s that we’ve been effective in identifying them and seizing items, drugs included,” Isaak said.
The unit’s work begins when they identify someone they want to investigate, whether it comes from a tip or the background work of the unit.
“We’ve got flexibility in terms of who we’re going to target, and who is causing more problems on a day to day, week to week, or month to month basis,” Isaak said.
After finding someone to investigate, the unit conducts surveillance, and if needed, applies for a search warrant and searches. Isaak said the unit conducts one comprehensive search per month, not including smaller investigations.
“The standard to apply for a search warrant before the courts is a police officer has to believe beyond a reasonable doubt that an offense has been committed, or is about to be committed. It’s a fairly high standard to obtain a search warrant.”
If the unit finds something in the search, charges and evidence are sent to a federal prosecutor, something Isaak says can take a long time, adding he understands the frustration when accused are quickly released on bail. Before a trial can begin, police must test anything they’ve found, gather expert witnesses and communicate with the federal prosecutor.
“People sometimes assume there isn’t going to be a charge. there is going to be a charge, it’s going to take a few months to process this,” Isaak said.
The illicit drug market, much like many other markets around the world, has been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We’ve seen a huge transition from heroin seizures to fentanyl,” Isaak said. “I think COVID probably had an impact on that in terms of how it’s transported from where it’s produced into North America. Primarily what we’re seeing is significant amounts of fentanyl and not as much heroin.”
Isaak said the unit’s goal is to focus on prolific offenders.
“They have such a big impact on the community and the court system,” he said. “If we can take a small percentage of people that are most active in committing criminal activity, there’s a huge result and an increase in public safety.”
Isaak said the best way to help their efforts is to report crimes like property damage or vandalism to the police, even if just to the Quesnel RCMP non-emergency line.
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