Crack-related arrests on the rise in Nunavik, police say
‘It’s huge,’ NPS officer confirms; public health board spreads drug-safety message
Nunavik’s board of health is raising a red flag over what it says is an increased use of crack cocaine in the region, and has started a public awareness campaign.
“It is known that crack cocaine is or was circulating in Nunavik. It has been observed in Nunavik by clinical resources and authorities,” said Kathleen Poulin, a spokesperson for the Nunavik Regional Board of Health and Social Services.
She said residents are concerned about “the impact of crack cocaine in Nunavik,” leading to the launch of the awareness campaign posted to the board’s Facebook page.
“It’s a huge problem,” said Capt. Patrice Abel, of the Nunavik Police Service’s integrated investigations unit.
He confirmed the increasing presence of the drug and said arrests for trafficking have increased in the region in recent years.
“In the last two and half years, we have seen a lot of change in the kind of drugs coming in from the south,” Abel said. “Right now, cocaine and crack are very important to our investigations.”
Crack cocaine is a hardened, solid form of the drug which is smoked rather than inhaled. It is known to be more addictive than cocaine in its regular powdered form.
On Oct. 4, police in Salluit reported a major drug seizure carried out on Sept. 29 in which 257 grams of crack cocaine with an estimated Nunavik market value of $150,000 was seized. Close to $8,000 in cash was also found.
Police said two suspects were charged in connection with the seizure.
“It was a huge bust, because there was over 250 grams of crack. It was a very big amount,” Abel said.
Abel said that for police, the effort to prevent the spread of crack cocaine and illegal drugs is a never-ending battle.
“We are trying to control entry here into Nunavik, but each time we arrest one” there are two others to take their place, he said.
Police are finding that after a series of busts in one community, the drugs will appear in other places where there has been little or no drug trafficking before.
Abel was unable to provide exact statistics on the problem, but said that based on intelligence they have gathered, he believes there will be more busts for cocaine and crack cocaine this year and next.
Abel acknowledged prevention, like the the public health board’s work, is key to battling the problem.
“Prevention is maybe a good way to decrease drug use, but from my perspective we need more busts,” he said, adding “we know that prevention is not the only thing we can do to stop the problem up here in the North.”
He said Nunavik police have its own prevention agent, who visits schools in the area to speak with young people.
Abel acknowledged “it’s going to be very, very hard to stop” the flow of drugs into Nunavik as it is in most areas, “but we try to control what we can control.”
For Nunavik’s board of health, the focus of its campaign is on public awareness, prevention, and how to safely use the drugs if people choose to do so.
“It is important for people who choose to use drugs to know about the substances being used and how to use substances with a sense of safety in mind,” Poulin said.
“The [board] supports the spread of information and encourages people to get informed.”