The Medicine Hat Police Service is very excited to have an opportunity to communicate with the community we serve through “Beyond the Badge,” a new monthly column. Through the column, we intend to provide some insight into community safety concerns and emerging issues andtrends from a law enforcement perspective. Each of our executive team members will take turns to provide updates from their areas of the police service.
I was going to start off with an overview of our 2015-2018 Strategic Plan, but what I’m hearing from many folks in our community is a concern about safety in light of the four homicides we experienced in our city in 2016. As our primary priority is always community safety, I thought I would address this concern.
Any loss of life is tragic, and the loss of life through an act of violence is even more tragic. Events of this magnitude impact everyone in the community. While the immediate effect of crime is felt by the victim and their family and friends, the community at large is also affected by criminal activity. High crime rates can cause individuals to question the safety of their community and may lead to feeling unsafe in general, particularly for those who witness a crime. Additionally, crime rates can create a negative impression about a community to those who live outside it.
While these feelings are natural and understandable, it is important to put things into perspective. Medicine Hat remains a safe place to live. In each of the events which occurred, members of the MHPS worked tirelessly to ensure those responsible were held accountable for their actions, and our Victim Services staff and volunteers were there to comfort and continue to provide support for those who were impacted.
Crime can also serve to empower a community, by bringing residents together in an effort to fight crime. We encourage all citizens of Medicine Hat to report criminal activity to police immediately, and to increase their involvement in community affairs and programs. Doing so will increase your awareness about the concerns facing our community, and will empower you to make a difference to ensure that Medicine Hat remains the safe community we all know and love.
The proliferation of fentanyl and carfentanil across Western Canada is another safety issue the MHPS is addressing. Illegal use of opioids, including heroin use, are on the rise in Medicine Hat and are very dangerous when purchased illegally. The police recently seized some cocaine that when analyzed, contained traces of carfentanil. This drug cannot be detected by sight, smell or taste and has been linked to overdose deaths across Canada. When you buy illegal drugs from a criminal, you can never be sure that the product is exactly what it is said to be.
The dangers of these new drugs are not only a concern for users, but also for first responders. Our members routinely come across and seize unknown white powdered substances and can become contaminated while handling it. Carfentanil in powder form is so potent, just breathing in the same room as the drug can cause an overdose. To protect against this danger, our members now carry naloxone kits. These kits are not only used to assist the public as needed, but also for the safety of our members. Recently, the spray was used to revive a male found unconscious and not breathing.
While these trends are concerning, they are not unique to Medicine Hat. It is important for all of us to understand while we are not immune to the troubles facing the rest of our country, we are fortunate to live in a very safe community and enjoy a relatively low crime severity index compared to most communities in Canada. I feel safe walking on any street in the city any time of the day or night.
For more information about the MHPS and the key initiatives outlined in our Strategic Plan visit www.mhps.ca.
Police Chief Andy McGrogan has been a member of the Medicine Hat Police Service for 37 years, and has been serving as chief since 2008.