By Matthew Liebenberg
For the Southwest Booster
Successful investigations by the Swift Current RCMP resulted in the arrest of several individuals and the seizure of drugs during the initial three months of 2023.
Staff Sgt. Evan Gordon, the commanding officer of the Swift Current municipal RCMP detachment, provided details about efforts to reduce the availability of illicit drugs in the community during the presentation of the quarterly community policing report at a regular City council meeting, May 1.
The report covered the period January to March 2023, which is the fourth quarter of the RCMP fiscal year.
“During this period, we did put a fairly large dent in local drug supply,” he told council members.
The Swift Current RCMP’s general investigation section (GIS) collaborated with the provincial RCMP’s Saskatchewan Trafficking Response Team (STRT) during January to prevent drugs from being distributed in the city.
“The drug traffickers were located entering the city of Swift Current and a large quantity of cocaine was taken off the streets before it managed to enter the flow of the trafficking within the city,” he said.
Eight search warrants were executed in the city as part of this investigation and five people were charged.
The Swift Current GIS and the STRT began an investigation in January into the interprovincial drug activities of an individual suspected of trafficking drugs from Alberta into southern Saskatchewan.
Search warrants were executed on March 23 at a property in Hodgeville as well as a residence in Swift Current. This resulted in the arrest of 41-year-old Keenan Leith Ireland on charges of drug possession for purposes of trafficking. The police found cash, 2.5 kilograms of methamphetamine, one kilogram of fentanyl, 0.5 kilogram of cocaine and between 40-50 small vials of cannabis resin.
“Those are massive amounts of dangerous drugs that were taken off the streets,” Gordon said. “I think that they did definitely lead into disrupting the flow of the drugs within the community. … There’s no doubt in my mind that those drugs would have been broken up and the majority of them, if not all of them, would have likely made their way to different locations in Swift Current for movement around the city. So anytime we can stop those drugs before they hit the street is a massive victory for us.”
He felt these successful police investigations might have played a role in the lower number of drug overdoses in Swift Current during this reporting period. The Swift Current RCMP responded to six calls of drug overdoses, of which four were fatal, during the October to December 2022 period. In comparison, there were four overdoses for the period January to March 2023 and none were fatal.
“We still do have people in this community that are using drugs for whatever reason and overdoses do happen, but I’m thankful that at this time none were fatal,” he said. “At least two of those were believed to be fentanyl related. Fentanyl is still present within our community.”
Gordon mentioned during previous presentations to council that there is a spillover from drug activities to property crime in the community. He repeated that notion during the presentation of the latest report, indicating that the drug trade has a bearing on the majority of break and enter incidents in the city.
“That’s a societal issue that Swift Current is not just alone in facing,” he said. “It’s something that we’re dealing with provincially and nationally, but it is underlying for so many different areas of our work.”
There was an increase in the number of residential break and enter incidents for this quarter. There were 15 reports for January to March 2023 compared to five such reports for the same period in 2022. Gordon indicated a quarter of incidents were unfounded after police investigated those reports. Another quarter of break and enter incidents was the result of ongoing issues between several parties that continued to target each other.
“Those were ongoing issues back and forth between two different parties or a group of people all targeted at each other,” he said. “Not that they’re any less serious, but the residential break and enters that really concern me are the stranger on stranger. Those crimes of opportunity where there really is no linkage between the victim and the accused.”
There were 65 reported offences in the category of theft under $5,000 for the period January to March 2023 compared to 43 for the same period in 2022.
In the category of theft over $5,000 there were 15 incidents from January to March 2023 compared to five during the same period in 2022.
“That’s an area that we continue to see a lot of crime happening in,” he said. “The theft of motor vehicle accounts for about 66 per cent of that theft over with the remainder of that being larger amounts of tools, either from vehicles or from work sites.”
He reminded city residents to lock their vehicles, even if they will be leaving it unattended for only a brief period, for example when going back into their home to get something.
“This is an area that’s so easy to prevent simply by making sure that our vehicles are locked and making sure that we don’t leave our vehicles run,” he said.
There was a noticeable increase in offences reported in the category for mischief. There were 100 incidents from January to March 2023 compared to 48 during the same period in 2022.
“A number of those were related directly to three to five specific individuals,” he explained. “So whether it’s a person that has been out of the city for a period of time and has come back in or someone new to the city without supports and services in place that just doesn’t have the support to deal with whatever issues they’re dealing with, and they become a little problematic in their behaviour.”
He spoke about the work done by the detachment’s Police and Crisis Team (PACT) worker Karla Rempel during the reporting period. There were 29 calls from January to March and through her successful intervention there were two diversions from custody.
The detachment’s focus on traffic safety resulted in 24 tickets and five warnings for distracted driving or driving while holding a cellphone and seven impaired driving charges. These numbers were fairly similar to previous quarters.
The detachment’s crime prevention efforts during the reporting period included a focus on fraud prevention presentations to various community groups, but specifically tailored to seniors.
“Fraudsters are not great people,” Gordon said. “I think we’ve all gotten at least one of those phone calls. They’re very frustrating and you may have an elderly family member that has experienced or fallen victim to fraud, and that’s even frustrating to everybody. So we’re trying to get as much information out there as often as we can to folks a little bit more at risk.”
The most common scams that occur in the community at the moment involve a fraudster requesting gift cards from a victim as a form of payment. He referred to the actions of an employee at a local business who spotted some discrepancies with gift cards. The police investigation resulted in the arrest of three individuals.
“Search warrants were executed on properties and a fairly sophisticated gift card scam setup was shut down within the city,” he said. “These are people that are not from the area. It’s a travelling road show, if you like to put it that way. Fraud comes in all different shapes and sizes, but really the big one that we have focused on in the preventative phase is against our elderly folks.”
There were eight incidents of missing persons in the city during the January to March period. He indicated that in most cases these individuals were found within the first six hours after they were reported missing.
“The majority of the missing person cases that we deal with here in Swift Current are quite often people making that phone call to us very quickly after not being able to find someone or after a loved one leaves the house in a little bit of an emotional state and that’s fine,” he said. “We definitely want to be ahead of the game when it comes to missing persons investigations.”
He emphasized there is no required period to wait before reporting someone as missing. It is preferable from a police perspective to know about a missing person as soon as possible.
“The more information we can get right off the bat and the sooner we can focus on those investigations, the better,” he said. “They are treated provincially as well as obviously locally as a very high-risk investigation and as many resources as we can throw at them we do. Having said that, 99 per cent of them quite often are located at a friend’s place or return. The ones that do protract a little bit, the majority of those are because that person doesn’t want to be found.”