Nunavik police see a rise in violent crime
And more intense violence fueled by drugs, alcohol
KUUJJUAQ — The Kativik Regional Police Force says it’s seen a bump in violent crime this year across Nunavik.
And much of that violence appears to be fueled by drugs and alcohol, KRPF police chief Aileen MacKinnon told the regional council of the Kativik Regional Government Nov. 27 at the councillors’ meeting in Kuujjuaq.
“It’s not so much the number of crimes, but the intensity of violence we’re seeing,” MacKinnon said.
Statistics tabled at the latest KRG meeting show that between January and July 2013, there were 2,966 assaults reported in Nunavik and three-quarters of those assaults were drug- or alcohol-related.
And in 350 of those incidents or 11 per cent of the time, those assaults were targeted at police officers.
The region’s police force has faced three violent stand-offs since the spring — one ending in the shooting death of its constable Steve Déry.
Overall, calls to the KRPF involving firearms have increased by about 70 per cent this year, MacKinnon said, with 30 having been reported in 2012 and 51 reported so far in 2013.
That’s prompted the police force to work more closely with Quebec’s public safety department to increase community awareness around the safe storage of firearms.
The KRPF recently launch a regional campaign to promote gun safety, encouraging gun owners to “lock ‘em” when not in use.
A trilingual poster shows a baby crawling towards an unguarded weapon, while a message reads: “when firearms are not properly stored, unfortunate events can happen leading to tragedy.”
The police force will be offering free gun locks in its community police stations starting later this month, MacKinnon said.
The KRPF also posted for a new staff position in September called “Public Relations and Community Liaison Officer.” This officer’s job is meant to help with the recruitment of more Inuit officers onto the force. The force has yet to receive any applicants.
Currently, there are two Inuit officers working with the KRPF, while a third, Maryam Ilgun, will complete her special constable training this month.
The KRPF hopes having more Inuit and Inuktitut-speaking members will help to build better communication between police and Nunavimmiut.
Another statistic from the KRPF shows that police responded to 1088 traffic accidents between January and July – 82 per cent of which were drug and alcohol related.
Some KRG regional councillors also reported they are also seeing more public drunkenness in their own communities, or inebriated people wandering the communities on foot.
“It’s now a normal things for people to see,” said Akulivik councillor Eli Aullaluk Nov. 27. “And it’s not pleasant.”
Kuujjuaq councillor Jennifer Watkins asked if and how police could intervene in those situations, a problem she suggested could be linked to the local sale of beer and wine, which started earlier this spring.
MacKinnon said that police can and will ticket people for public drunkenness.
But she added that Kuujjuaq’s co-op is not permitted to sell alcohol to anyone that is inebriated.