Nunavik beer, wine sales foster lower crime rates: police

“There’s been a huge decrease in the number of files we’ve had”


Puvirnitumiut line up Oct. 15, the night the local co-op launched its beer and wine sales. (PHOTO COURTESY OF MUNCY NOVALINGA)

Puvirnitumiut line up Oct. 15, the night the local co-op launched its beer and wine sales. (PHOTO COURTESY OF MUNCY NOVALINGA)

KUUJJUAQ — Police in Puvirnituq say there has been a major drop in the number of calls they’ve had to handle since the Nunavik community’s co-op store began selling beer and wine in October.

The Povungnituk Co-operative Association began offering beer and wine sales from its local store in October, the second co-op in the region to do so since the Fort Chimo Co-operative Association in Kuujjuaq re-launched its own sales in 2013.

“It’s been a month, and for us, we’ve seen a huge decrease in the number of calls we’ve received,” said Kativik Regional Police Force captain Jean François Morin, who serves as interim deputy chief of operations in Puvirnituq.

“There’s been a huge decrease in the number of files we’ve had.”

Morin said it’s not just law enforcement that’s noticed the difference, but the community’s health and social services workers too.

“They’ve all noticed the drop,” Morin told Kativik Regional Government councillors Nov. 26, during council meetings in Kuujjuaq. “That’s what we’ve been hoping for and we’re very happy.”

Puvirnituq has long been an entry point for bootlegged alcohol coming into the region, a trend KRPF officers have been trying to stem.

Community members voted in a 2012 referendum to lift restrictions and allow residents to order alcohol from southern suppliers.

Since the co-op sales began, Morin said the community has noted fewer liquor orders to Montreal-area stores, which suggests Puvirnitumiut are opting now for lighter alcoholic drinks such as beer and wine.

That bodes well for the co-op association’s plans to open a new restaurant in Puvirnituq, which will also serve wine and beer. This is set to open in early 2016.

It’s less clear how beer and wine sales have impacted on crime in Kuujjuaq; last year, the KRPF has said crime rates in Nunavik’s largest community have remained roughly the same.

But the KRPF says there has been a recent and overall drop in violent crime across Nunavik, and that this decrease is related to a bump in alcohol seizures over the past year.

Between August 2015 and October 2015 alone, police seized $94,060 in bootlegged alcohol destined to or in Nunavik communities — a much larger amount than seized over that same period in recent years.

And across Nunavik, the number of incidents of impaired driving dropped from 745 in 2013, to 429 in 2015, KRPF statistics show.

The value of drugs seized in Nunavik is much higher, however, police note. KRPF have seized $136, 788 of marijuana and hashish so far in 2015, the most common narcotics used in the region.

KRPF told KRG councillors last week that the force’s investigation unit has seen a shift in how drugs are getting to the region.

While narcotics were being shipped to the region by mail and cargo in the past, dealers are more often using mules — people who carry the drugs on their body — to transport shipments to Nunavik.

Police say groups are recruiting teenagers on Facebook and luring the youth south with offers of airfare to Montreal and lodging, in exchange for carrying drugs with them on their way back north.

The KPRF encourages Nunavimmiut with any information about trafficking in their communities to contact the force at 1-800-964-2644.

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