Blue Line

Integrated policing fights N.B. drug trade: province

December 9, 2022  By The Canadian Press

Dec. 9, 2022, New Brunswick – A new provincial initiative that sees municipal police across New Brunswick, RCMP and the departments of justice and public safety working closely together to fight street-level drug crimes is getting results, the province says.

So far this year, police across New Brunswick have made 159 drug seizures, seized about $808,000 in cash, 311 weapons and made 328 arrests related to drug crimes, thanks in part to Integrated Drug Enforcement Units created in April through $3.3 million in funding from the province.

The units see municipal police forces, RCMP and provincial justice and public safety officers sharing resources and intelligence on files, said Gary Forward, Woodstock police chief and president of the New Brunswick Association of Chiefs of Police.

Forward said he couldn’t compare those numbers to the year prior as integrated units didn’t exist in the province for nearly a decade.

He said the integrated drug units “compliment” local police force units in drug and firearms-related crimes, “culminating in a better understanding of the activity taking place.”

The integrated units focus on “related investigations” in jurisdictions across the province, he said, complementing the existing efforts of local police forces in fighting drugs, firearms and organized crime in Fredericton, Woodstock, Moncton, Miramichi, Saint John and the Kennebecasis Valley, as well as Bathurst, Edmunston and Grand Falls.

In Saint John, that means the city’s street crime unit has been supplemented with members of the province’s department of justice and public safety, along with RCMP members and another member of the Kennebecasis Regional Police Force, Saint John Police Force Chief Robert Bruce recently told the Telegraph-Journal.

“We have no boundaries,” he said. “We’re all about trying to best serve our community the best way we can.”

Forward said since the integrated units began in April, 47 pounds of methamphetamine have been seized across the province, including over 10 pounds seized in Fredericton. Additionally, 11 pounds of fentanyl have been seized.

The province has spent more than $7 million over the past two years on law enforcement initiatives, Public Safety Minister Kris Austin said, but New Brunswick’s crime rate continues to be higher than in neighbouring provinces, and getting higher.

Austin said New Brunswick’s Crime Severity Index has been the highest among the Atlantic provinces for five consecutive years and is 20 per cent higher than the national rate.

“It’s no surprise crime has been rising for several years,” he said, noting increases in the rates of petty crimes such as property theft under $5,000, breaking and entering and motor vehicle theft. He noted decreases in the rate of homicide, robbery and arson.

“As a rural New Brunswicker, an increase in property crime doesn’t come as a surprise,” he said. “From community mailboxes being broken into, or a lawn mower stolen from a shed, it all affects how people feel in relation to safety in their communities.”

Austin also spoke to an “interdepartmental” approach to crime reduction, including expanding mental health initiatives and addictions recovery support.

“It’s not just a hard approach,” he said. “We don’t want inmates going back on the street and committing the same crime.”

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