On the eve of an announcement beginning the RCMP’s major drug dealing and trafficking sweep across the NWT, four arrests were made on March 23 and two the next day.
Of the four arrested on March 23, three were male ranging in age from 19 to 30 and the forth is a minor, for which no information was disclosed under the Youth Criminal Justice Act.
According to RCMP releases, these particular arrests were a long time coming, as they have been investigating drug peddling more closely in Hay River in recent months.
The two that were taken in on March 24, a male and female, were caught in ‘possession with intent to traffic’ in a drug-free zone, where punishment can be much stiffer. The zones, put in place at the request of the family of the late Const. Christopher Worden who was shot down in the line of duty in 2007.
Sgt. Scott Buchanan, detachment commander of the Hay River RCMP, said it’s not isolated to just this town, however Hay River has great community involvement to help reduce drug use.
“It seems Hay River has a history of drug use, but it’s not any different than any other towns this size.”
In addition to the drug-free zone committee, there is the drug strategy committee, spearheaded by 15-20 committee stake holders, which gives valuable information regarding the effects of drugs and binge drinking.
Kelly Schofield, mayor of Hay River, sees the town’s fight against drugs in a gang mentality: Drug users versus drug fighters.
“We’re bigger, badder and better than them,” he said.
He believes gangs from down south are to blame, seeing northern communities as susceptible to drug use.
“It makes us a target, because we have a higher salary base here, so we have a higher disposable income and these people see that, Schofield said.
“It’s a system, an underworld system, and every little bit helps them, if you spend 20 bucks on a hit of something, that’s 20 bucks that’s going into some gang leader’s pocket, rather than 20 bucks into the local economy.”Although Schofield says the fight is long-term, he is optimistic to reduce drug use in town.
“It’s a slow, hard, arduous fight, that we will not give up, we will stick to our guns and keep working at it,” Schofield said. “It’s going to be a problem for a long time, I don’t know if we’ll ever get rid of the problem.”
As of March 24, the RCMP of the Northwest Territories has arrested 22 people in the territory, as they announced the sweep. Other communities involved include Fort Smith, Yellowknife and Inuvik.
Drugs involved in the territory-wide arrests, include cocaine, crack cocaine, ecstasy, oxycodone, morphine and marijuana.