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RNC Chief Robert Johnston, Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Kathy Dunderdale, Justice Minister Darin King and RCMP Asst. Comm. Tracy Hardy at a St. John’s news conference.
HEAD: Organizing to fight organized crime
by Danette Dooley
Newfoundland and Labrador is following the lead of other provinces in establishing a joint police task force to fight child exploitation, drug trafficking and organized crime.
Just days before bringing down the provincial budget, premier Kathy Dunderdale announced $1 million to set up the task force, which will consist of crime analysts, investigators, computer forensic specialists and other specialized members of both the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary (RNC) and RCMP.
Provincial Justice Minister Darin King said the types of crimes these police agencies are combating are happening not only on the province’s Avalon Peninsula but throughout the province.
“They occur in very remote and rural communities,” King said.
While some may question the timing of the announcement, King said the province has been working with the RNC and RCMP for months to establish the unit.
A framework has been established, he said, and more specific details will be announced once the formal structure is in place.
“As it operates from its own dedicated facility, a key strength of the task force will lie in the ability to combine the considerable expertise and experience of the RCMP and the RNC. Additional resources from the broader enforcement and social services community will also be brought in when needed,” King said.
RNC Chief Robert Johnston said today’s criminal activity transcends jurisdictions, province’s and borders and is well organized.
“The creation of this integrated provincial enforcement team will strengthen our abilities to be more efficient and more effective in responding to combating organized crime and bringing to justice those individuals involved in sexual exploitation.”
When combined with resources from both forces, Johnston said, the money will have a greater impact in helping officers fight serious crime.
The unit is based on a model that has been successful in several other provinces, Dunderdale said. “It’s time has come for Newfoundland and Labrador.”.
Today’s crimes – whether geographical or virtual, know no boundaries, she added. “We are no longer as isolated from the rest of the continent as we once were and, as we have evolved, so, too has the criminal element in our province.”
When asked during a scrum following the press conference if she’s worried about serious crime, Dunderdale said what’s happening in the result of a changing world.
She compared her years growing up in rural Newfoundland to her children’s way of life in the same community.
“I think about growing up in a small village on the south coast of this province where you listen to the radio once or twice a day to get the news. We spent all our time outdoors roaming the hills and the beaches and collecting mussels and rowing around the harbor in a dory. That’s not what my children did in that small town.”
Computers and other technology were abundant when she was raising them, she said, exposing them and most other Newfoundland children and youth to a much different world.
“We hear almost every day how important broadband is, for example, to people here in this province… and there are a lot of good things that come from that but there’s a dark side that comes from it too. That’s just one of the realities of life and some of the things we are going to deal with through this task force.”
The provincial government recently entered into a new 20-year agreement with the RCMP that will see the federal police force continue policing the province until at least 2032.
Tacking serious and organized crime is one of the RCMP’s strategic priorities, said Asst. Comm. Tracy Hardy.
“Our intelligence is showing that there has been an increase in some violence in the province that is linked to players within the organized crime world.”
Hardy said establishing joint force units are a common sense approach to policing.
“This unit will bring together multiple investigative and enforcement resources to work hand in hand with social services ensuring our communities are safe, healthy and prosperous… it’s collaboration at its finest – and it makes sense.”
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