Seizure one of largest ever in Nunavik
KRPF grab drugs worth $800,000
Constables Luc Alarie, Alexander Moring and Tony Paquet of the Kativik Regional Police Force are still in awe of the huge quantity of drugs they seized last month in Salluit, a community of only 1,200 people: 18 pounds of marijuana, more than four grams of cocaine and a vial of a substance suspected to be speed, for an estimated street value of $800,000.
The quantity of the drugs makes this seizure one of the largest made by police in Nunavik – if not the largest ever.
Police say a woman, acting as a mule for a drug trafficker in Montreal and a dealer in Salluit, brought the drugs from Montreal to Salluit on June 22.
Tipped off by residents who said a large shipment of drugs was coming in, Paquet used contacts in Montreal to determine when the drugs would be en route to Nunavik. Then he obtained a warrant to search the woman's luggage.
After her arrival in Salluit, the woman was reluctant to claim her suitcase, Paquet said.
But the woman's name was on the suitcase. When she opened the suitcase, police found three backpacks stuffed with drugs inside.
The drugs – some of which had been carefully vacuum-packed for sale – were destroyed, but no arrests have been made as police say they are continuing their investigation.
For Paquet, keeping the drugs off the street was a relief. He said a similar shipment of drugs went through earlier this summer. That's because there wasn't enough time to complete the investigation and request a search warrant ahead of time.
"My first objective is to help protect people from drugs and alcohol, which are sold at a ridiculous price," said Paquet. "I see poor kids in the street late at night and it hurts me."
Drugs and illegally-ordered booze have been streaming into Salluit as drug dealers and bootleggers try to siphon off money from the $4,800 each Salluit resident received in June from the Raglan mine profit-sharing agreement:
"I wish I could just go into a big drug dealer's home and bust him but I know it takes time."
Investigations are hard because many Salluit residents are scared to get involved and even police efforts to gather evidence often take place in view of the suspects.
"There is no such thing as an undercover cop," Paquet said.
Drug-busting activities are also limited by shortages of police manpower.
"We can only do so much. We have to prioritize," he said. "It's the safety of the public first. "
The new collective agreement under negotiation may help with recruitment and retention due to higher wages and better housing, Paquet said. This month, the KRPF lost another of its most experienced Inuit police, Capt. George Okpik.
Paquet, who has a local partner and a new baby daughter, said he's been in Salluit for two years and intends to stay.
"I enjoy working here. I do more than 100 per cent, I sacrifice a lot for my job," he said.
Paquet said it's frustrating to hear complaints from other police surface in the media because he'd rather see them coming up with solutions instead of complaining,
Nunavimmiut could also play a large role in improving conditions by working more closely with police who can guarantee local informants complete anonymity if they provide tips about illegal booze or drug activities, suggested Paquet.
"Our hands are tied until people say ‘we've had enough of this problem in town, we're going to do something about it,' then come to us and give us information," Paquet said. "Then we'll be able to do more. "