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Agencies combatting drug culture

Posted on December 17, 2013 by Taber Times

This is the first part of a multi-part series on drug-related issues in the community that were addressed at an information session involving concerned agencies.

Concerned parents and citizens got to see the re-emerging illegal drug trends that have been in Taber at a recent information night at W.R. Myers hosted by Taber Police Service and Taber Community Against Drugs.

“There were a number of issues identified from possession of drugs or narcotics at school to trafficking of those at school. Within a short amount of time we had a series of arrests that were made for possessing or selling drugs. It has been awhile since we’ve had a forum like this, so we as the Taber police like to keep people involved in what we are doing to ensure the information and the education is out there,” said David Dube, school resource officer for Taber Police Service at the presentation.

Inspector Graham Abela of the Taber Police Service noted at the start of his presentation the focus would be on three main drugs in cannabis, cocaine and methamphetamine/ecstasy, along with dabbling in some prescription drugs that are being abused in Taber.

Abela started his presentation on cocaine, noting back in 2003, Taber Police Service started to encounter a little white substance.

Not even knowing what crack cocaine looked like back then that fell out in a routine traffic stop, the Taber Police Service did some deep soul searching a month later.

“We came together as an organization and we said ‘how many of us do we think are using crack cocaine in this community?’ By the time we were finished, around that table, we came up with 100 names that we had listed of people we knew that we had information on, or that were using cocaine within the community. That scared us, we didn’t realize how big the problem was,” said Abela.

From that was born an information night at St. Mary’s School where over 200 people attended that meeting in which cocaine use and abuse was discussed and how as a community and police service, people can come together to help people who are suffering from it.

It was how the Taber Community Against Drugs organization was first formed, stemming from the concern of the influx of cocaine into Taber 10 years ago. In investigations from 2003, Abela noted about $50,000 worth of cocaine a week was coming into Taber, and being consumed.

A six-part, $1.3 million investigation was spearheaded at the time in which Taber Police Service partnered with Calgary police and the RCMP in which more than 20 charges were laid against multiple people in Taber and surrounding communities.

“I have to tell you something about cocaine and the other drugs we are going to talk about — drugs make you feel good. They give you a sense of euphoria and sense of calmness. Some stimulate, and some of them depress you, meaning they lower your anxiety,” said Abela.

Cocaine can only be grown in Central and South America and some parts of Asia according to Abela. It was used for years as a means of keeping awake, stimulating them to work in the fields, by chewing on the leaf of the plant.

“It has been used legitimately in North America for a long time. There were products in the old days like for toothaches  and the other was Coca Cola that had cocaine in the product. Coca Cola originally had cocaine in it way back when,” said Abela.

Illegal now, what people see are powder cocaine and rock cocaine.

“The thing about cocaine is, it has to be imported. Most of the other drugs that are used in Canada apart form some of the chemical drugs, can be grown here,” said Abela. “The people who move this cocaine, they always package it the same way. There’s about nine drug cartels in Mexico right now who are very active in the transportation of cocaine from Mexico to Canada.” When we see a package of cocaine, we know which cartel sent it because of the packaging — it’s almost a trademark.”

Powder cocaine has to be snorted or injected. Abela noted if you can imagine the most favourable experience you have had in your life, multiple that euphoric feeling 10 times, that is the kind of feeling you can get from powder cocaine.

“That feeling can last one or two hours in which the high quickly de-escalates. When we talk with drug addicts who use cocaine, is that the initial high they get off of cocaine is the best thigh they ever get,” said Abela. “When they continue to use cocaine, they have to use more of it to try and get to that initial peak, but it is very difficult to get there again.”

Selling for about $100 a gram in Taber, meaning the street value in the area is $100,000 for a kilogram. In Columbia, that same kilogram is worth $5,000. With weight meaning money, they cut the cocaine and add things to it to make it weigh more, such great things for your body such as strychnine (rat poison). Abela responded in question period, the police service has seen very affluent farmers in the past who have operating loans for their farms, use the whole loan to purchase cocaine.

“All the sudden your one kilo become 1.25 kilos and because your cocaine is being made with so much purity now, you can cut it more without people noticing it,” said Abela where the profit margin is now $120,000 for a kilo of cocaine. “For a $5,000 investment, you have made $125,000. That is one kilo, in the last investigation Matt Champagne did with our police service, he seized 28 pounds of it. Twelve kilos. It was cocaine that was destined for here.”

Abela encouraged parents on hand to check their child’s cellphones for certain slang terms used for cocaine or crack.

“The drug culture speaks in a language all of its own. It is not uncommon for us to b eon the phone listening to people or intercepting or sending text messages to speak the same language or else they will know we are cops,” said Abela of terms such as coke, snow, white, rock, #1, Kryptonite, sugar block and apple jacks that have been used in the past.

Crack cocaine is even more sinister than powder cocaine, inhaling the fumes through a glass pipe as you light it.

“Remember how I was telling you about the 10-times euphoric feeling of the affects you get form snorted cocaine? Multiple that by another 10 and that’s the feeling you get when you first inhale crack cocaine. It is very short lived, maybe 20 minutes,” said Abela. “And unfortunately, it’s highly addictive. Drug dealers like to get people on crack because it’s more addictive  and so they will come back for more as a repeat customer.”

Being a very selfish drug that is not shared among the culture like your marihuana, Abela added there are people right now in Taber sitting in their basements with all their lights off, having just got their paycheques and wasting it on crack cocaine.

“They are sitting there and will sit for the next four days and nights smoking crack cocaine in the dark. They won’t eat, they won’t sleep —sitting there smoking crack cocaine. It’s a very lonely drug,” said Abela.

Seeing crack quite often in the Taber community, Abela added it is becoming more and more prevalent all the time. Being a relatively affluent community, but small community — the combination can pose problems for those with idle hangs.

“Unfortunately, one of the issues we have I believe as a police officer that for the age groups between 16-24, unless you are into sports, there is very little else to do with your recreation with your cash,” said Abela. “As a community that is one of the things we need to look at when we want to build capacity in slowing down this type of drug use. The scary part is one of the trends we have identified is that the use of cocaine is getting into the younger communities. We have 14-15 year-olds we know who have used cocaine. If your kids are on cocaine, you’ll see them staying up all night, you are going to see a change in peer groups, them blowing all their money and probably a pretty good attitude at first. But, then you’ll see a dramatic drop off. For every stimulant, you will see an equal and active response with a down time of being tired and grumpy and lethargic.”

“Our message to the community is that we as a police service understand the issues of addiction.  We believe  that those suffering from drug use and abuse are often in crisis and we as a police service welcome those in this situation to seek our help. We have an excellent relationship with Taber community Against Drugs and are part of a multi- agency support team.

As police officers we have several roles within our public safety mandate.  Of course we have our traditional  roles as police officers in enforcing the law, however, one of our  other roles is to be caring and compassionate with people who are suffering and to understand the underlying issues of addiction and try to help where we can. We are open 24 hours a day and are here to help.” – Inspector Graham Abela

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