Iqaluit crack bust sparks questions for RCMP
“When we get the numbers, what does that mean to us?”
When Deputy Mayor Glenn Williams found out that a man was busted with crack cocaine in Iqaluit a few weeks ago, he realized that rumours of growing drug use in the community were true.
“I’ve never heard of anyone being busted for crack until now,” he said. He has also heard talk in the community of a rise in violent crime and property crime that he thinks is likely linked to drug use.
“In the last few months there is more talk of rising drug use in the community among people we deal with on a regular basis,” said Cst. Peter Lambros, a drug enforcement officer.
He says that drug use in Iqaluit is high and he is seeing more crack and cocaine, which has an impact on other crimes, such as increasing property theft.
As a city councillor, Williams wonders whether the current system that the RCMP uses to report to council needs to be changed to better reflect what is actually going on in the community.
He brought the issue up with Corporal Todd Walsh, who reported to city council at a meeting on July 18.
“When we get the numbers, what does that mean to us?” Williams asked at the meeting. “How can we apply that to something that is going to affect our community?”
Once a month, an RCMP officer attends a city council meeting to represent the department and present statistics, such as the number of distress calls they receive and the number of male and female prisoners in custody. They also provide comparisons with other months and years to help give a perspective on whether crime is rising or falling.
“All it can do is show you trends,” Williams said in an interview. “There is no mechanism for dialogue or further consultation with the police department.”
He adds that is no fault of the RCMP, but that there is no forum currently set up for that to happen. He suggests the possibility of a public safety committee in the future to deal with issues such as drugs and crime.
“I’m hoping we can engage with the RCMP and see if there are any alternatives to the current system,” said Williams. “We need a better way to assess the policing in our community.”
According to Jennifer Hayward, the communications strategist for the RCMP, surveys are currently the primary way that the performance of the police is reviewed by the public and by the municipalities it serves.
“It’s one way of measuring how effective we are policing the communities,” she said.
In 2006 a survey was sent to 13 of the communities and hamlets that the RCMP serves and they received 10 back.
In that survey, 90 per cent of respondents said they find the regular policing reports to be valuable.
In the same survey, 56 per cent of respondents said the RCMP provides their clients with useful information about their work and 50 per cent think that information is comprehensive.
Fifty-six per cent of the respondents felt they had enough say into the development of community plans with the RCMP, and 60 per cent felt they had sufficient involvement in setting the policing priorities of their communities.
The RCMP also conducts a public survey over the phone. “We strive for 500 respondents because that gives us a good idea of how we are doing,” said Hayward.
In 2006, 500 people answered the survey in Nunavut and 67 per cent of respondents said the RCMP provides adequate information about their work. Eighty-eight per cent of people surveyed said they are satisfied with the RCMP’s work in ensuring their community is safe.
Hayward was unaware, at the time of the interview, of Williams’ suggestions for changes to the RCMP reporting system.