Drug Enforcement is this year’s Crime Stoppers of Halton theme.
A poster depicting the theme – featuring two hands swapping drugs for money with the message: “See this going down? Let us know” – was unveiled during an open house Monday night at Halton Regional Centre.
Crime Stoppers is an international, community volunteer organization which allows the public to anonymously give police information about a crime.
“Drugs really are at the heart of so much in our community as far as crime, impact to families, and sadly, the devastation that comes from them,” said Deputy Chief Andrew Fletcher, one of several guest speakers at the theme launch, who applauded the local organization for taking on the drug enforcement theme.
It’s not just illicit street drugs like heroin and cocaine that have increased in use, but prescription narcotics, added Fletcher.
Two-thirds of drug deaths in Ontario are caused by prescription opioids (pain relief medications), said Dr. Sangrit Sharma, an Ontario coroner, who spoke about drugs and death.
“One of the key things is that out of all opioid deaths that occur, the majority of them are accidental, which means people are taking the medication but they’re not intending to die. But because of misuse they do end up overdosing and dying. When you add alcohol into the picture, that increases the risk of death.”
In 2008, the number of opioid-related deaths in Ontario had surpassed that of deaths from motor vehicle accidents, said Dr. Sharma.
“In 2002, the number of opioid-related deaths was approximately 165. In 2013 in Ontario, the number of opioid-related deaths was 475. That’s a three-fold increase in opioid-related deaths,” she said.
By 2008, Ontario statistics showed a “huge rise” in oxycodone deaths, said Dr. Sharma, the reason being not just an increase in the number of prescriptions, but the strength of those prescriptions.
The Integrated Drug, Gun and Gang Unit of the Halton Regional Police Services relies heavily on the community for information, especially through Crime Stoppers, said Det. Sgt. Brad Murray.
Crime Stoppers plays a vital role within his unit, with anonymous tips often tipping the scales in favour of the police, said Murray.
“In order to achieve our goals to create a safer community, we have to work with our community as partners. The Crime Stoppers program allows the public to be a silent partner in our fight against crime,” said Murray. “I would encourage the public to call Crime Stoppers with any or all information. Information that may seem small and trivial to you may be the final piece of the puzzle to us.”
David Forster, president of the Ontario Association of Crime Stoppers said Halton’s award-winning Crime Stoppers program is recognized throughout Ontario and the world for its innovation and leadership.
The audience also heard from former drug user Nicole about her experiences, which began innocently “with prescription opioids” and escalated to cocaine use. She credited her involvement with a court-ordered drug treatment program for her success in beating her addictions.