The Medicine Hat Police Service (MHPS) has identified a concerning trend regarding the increased presence of methamphetamine and opioids in our community. Addictions to these highly addictive and dangerous drugs and the resulting criminal activity often associated to their consumption, including an increase in property crimes and vehicles thefts, has become a community issue.
So far this year, the MHPS Organized Crime Section has seized 1,394 grams of methamphetamine and 39 grams of heroin. These totals indicate a continuation of the trends observed in 2016 when an unprecedented amount of heroin (52.5 grams) and methamphetamine (1,474 grams) were seized. These volumes represented a 400% increase in methamphetamine, and an almost 700% increase in the volume of heroin seized as compared to 2015.
To combat the trend, the MHPS will be focusing policing activities on four main areas, including; intelligence gathering, enforcement action, education and awareness, and community collaboration, in an effort to address the root cause of the addiction and drug usage.
Often the mentality and behavior of drug addicts is wholly irrational until you understand that they are completely powerless over their addiction and unless they have structured help, they have no hope. Often criminal behavior, specifically drug use is a result of several factors, which may include but are not limited to, poor family situations, previous victims of violence or sexual violence, economic situations, mental health conditions, addictions based on prescribed medications, or traumatic events. This list is by no means exhaustive, but tends to reflect the typical reasons for substance abuse from a policing perspective. There is no such thing as addiction under control.
It is important to understand is that MHPS cannot fix this problem alone. We are working with our partners in Alberta Health Services (AHS), to focus on a combined response to opioid use and mental health issues. We are also working with the Sexual Assault Response Committee (SARC), to provide improved services to victims of sexual violence ensuring that wrap around supports and in place to assist them in their recovery. Victims of sexual violence often turn to substance abuse, criminality or commit sexual offences in response to their trauma. Our Family Crime Unit works directly with community and social services, to meet the needs of children/ persons at risk in less than desirable family situations. We have collaborated with Probation Services to share information on known offenders and many other community agencies, who assist us in our current harm reduction and crime prevention strategies. To be most effective our response to our community drug problems must be holistic, integrated and partnership based.
Increased opioids and methamphetamine use is a relatively new trend, but we are confident in our approach, and with the support of our community and partner agencies we will be able to address this concerning trend and keep Medicine Hat one of the safest and most desirable places to live in the country.
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.