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NEWS: Iqaluit February 20, 2017 - 7:00 am

Iqaluit councillors want police to act against storefront drug dealers

RCMP bring in "plain clothes" officers but lack of loitering bylaw hampers efforts

STEVE DUCHARME
Iqaluit RCMP Sgt. Grant Smith tells Iqaluit city councillors Feb. 14 that police efforts to shoo potential drug dealers away from businesses is hampered by the absence of a city loitering bylaw. But he encouraged people who feel harassed or threatened by drug dealers and others to report their experiences to the RCMP. (PHOTO BY STEVE DUCHARME)
Iqaluit RCMP Sgt. Grant Smith tells Iqaluit city councillors Feb. 14 that police efforts to shoo potential drug dealers away from businesses is hampered by the absence of a city loitering bylaw. But he encouraged people who feel harassed or threatened by drug dealers and others to report their experiences to the RCMP. (PHOTO BY STEVE DUCHARME)

Iqaluit city councillors want more visibility from the RCMP, saying police should do more to protect local store employees from loitering drug dealers.

Coun. Terry Dobbin told Sgt. Grant Smith of the RCMP’s “V” Division in Iqaluit, during a detachment report to city councillors Feb. 14, that drug traffickers operating outside businesses are threatening workers at several local stores.

“I’ve been told by some of the staff that their lives are being threatened by local drug dealers and one of the managers had been assaulted by one of the people that are trafficking in drugs to the local stores,” Dobbin said.

“It’s almost getting out of control at a particular store.”

Grant responded that logistical and capacity issues prevent officers from maintaining a permanent presence outside known dealer hangouts and in the absence of a city loitering bylaw, crowd control is an exercise in frustration.

“We can go along and move people out, but we know that they’ll come right back so we’re trying to find other ways to deal with the situation,” Smith said.

If people are being threatened, Smith requested members of the public to contact the RCMP so the detachment can build a case against individuals.

“As much as we hear this stuff, if we don’t have the evidence or don’t have the information to move forward, it makes it somewhat difficult for us,” Smith told councillors.

Smith was originally scheduled to brief councillors weeks ago. The RCMP’s regular crime report was circulated at council anyway.

Coun. Joanasie Akumalik said city council asked for more routine updates from the RCMP last summer.

“I’m hoping that reporting from the RCMP will become consistent again. It seems that communication between this city administration and detachment are lacking and we really need to know what’s going on in the community,” he said.

“Three terms in council I’ve been concerned about foot or bike patrols, but was not successful at getting previous commander to put that in place.”

Smith defended the detachment’s current community outreach, where officers deliver education programs to schools, lend security to special public events, offer support to Iqaluit’s men’s and women’s shelter and sit on the city’s liquor board and airport safety committees.

Staff turnover has also affected operations at the detachment Smith explained, saying the winter has traditionally been a period of transition for officers who may move to other positions—such as Sgt. Dave Combden, who used to report to council.

The addition of new “plain clothes” officers within the detachment will help the RCMP crack down on repeat offenders and drug trafficking in Iqaluit, he added.

“That’ll be a new unit to support the detachment and community as well,” he said.

As for a possible neighborhood watch, Smith says it won’t be a “police initiative” but “we would be involved.”

According to the RCMP’s most recent statistics delivered to city council, overall crime in Iqaluit dropped during 2016, but specific areas such as break-and-enters saw substantial increases.

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