— Pamela Roth
Cracking down on illegal drugs is the number one crime police deal with in Victoria, and cocaine continues to be the drug of choice on city streets.
Every day, police come across dozens of people using cocaine or smoking crack. Use and trafficking of the drug has been steady throughout the years, forcing Staff Sgt. Connor King of the Victoria police strike force unit to think about long-term solutions besides just making arrests.
“From the police perspective, we think one of the big solutions is education for young people and to prevent people from getting into using drugs in the first place,” said King. “There’s a lot of focus on harm reduction and we are in partnerships now with a lot of harm reduction service providers.”
According to King, crack cocaine is popular amongst street entrenched drug users, but cocaine is used by all walks of life.
With illegal drugs also comes property crimes as drug addicts search for ways to fund their addiction by breaking into homes and vehicles, stealing whatever valuables they can find.
Although property crimes occur in neighbourhoods throughout Victoria and Esquimalt, police see more downtown due to the dense population. Expensive bikes have also been targeted by thieves.
“The bikes around here, they are thousands of dollars, so for our local population that’s a big deal,” said Victoria police Chief Frank Elsner, adding police also have a big push on gang activity.
“(They are) trying to get a foot hold here in Victoria and Esquimalt, so we’re on top of that making sure we keep that segment out.”
In July, 16 people were charged with trafficking offences following an undercover sting that targeted drug dealers selling around homeless shelters. The six-week operation was in response to a dramatic increase in drug dealing in front of the Rock Bay Landing shelter on Ellice Street and Our Place drop-in centre on Pandora Avenue.
Most of the accused were members of the Nortenos street gang, which has been growing in Victoria.
Heat from police has prompted some local dealers to move out of the city, but Elsner said they still come in to drop off drugs.
King has noticed some of the large dealers from Vancouver come to Victoria with large quantities of cocaine. Often they have ties with organized crime. Middle level and small level drug dealers have also set up shop, creating a never-ending battle for city police.
“Our goal is always to make Victoria an unattractive city in which to conduct drug business and to focus on the drug dealers that are having the greatest impact on the safety of our citizens, particularly when it comes to violence,” said King, noting there’s a large amount of violent crime associated with big cocaine dealers, which has been seen throughout the Lower Mainland.
“We’re lucky that we see a lesser amount of that, but we do see guns and knife violence associated with cocaine dealing.”