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Chief Takes Aim At City’s Drug Addiction Problem

This story goes along with the post: EXPAND METHADONE TREATMENT TO CURB CRIME: SAINT JOHN POLICE.

http://telegraphjournal.canadaeast.com/city/article/544066

By Jeff Ducharme

January 19, 2009 – Just weeks into his new job as police chief and Bill Reid is taking his gloves off. He’s had enough of the current catch-and-release system that provides addicts no help after they’ve been arrested for crime that’s driven by their need to feed a drug addiction.

With the Saint John Police Force’s new intelligence-led policing which allows them to closely track numbers via computer software and take a proactive rather than a reactive approach to crime, concrete numbers will be more readily available as to who commits those crimes and why.

“When we arrest somebody, the question will be asked relative to the crime – was it part of a drug addiction?” Reid said.

The force’s new crime analyst will then track those numbers. With firm numbers, the costs of drug-driven crimes and the need for expanded local treatment programs will be as plain as day.

“That’s compelling enough. Those are the questions that we will ask. We will have those numbers and through our crime-control meetings we’ll be able to say, ‘look at it, this is all predicated on addiction.'”

Currently the province spends $1,789,045 on methadone programs and $402,747 for 151 treatment spots in Saint John.

The province’s own methadone policy pegs the approximate annual cost of a client in its methadone maintenance program at $6,000. An untreated opiate user can cost society approximately $49,000 per year.

The provincial document also cites a 1999 American alcohol treatment assessment study that shows that treatment dollars are well spent. For every dollar directed towards methadone treatment, a community saves between $4 and $13 (US).

Currently, the methadone treatment program at Ridgewood Addiction Services has a waiting list of more than 80 addicts, some of whom are begging for help. In July, there was 73 people on the waiting list.

“It’s almost a fool’s errand to reduce crime if people are in that cycle,” Reid said. “And the cycle is addiction.”

Marji Mullin, director of the methadone maintenance treatment program at Ridgewood, said she applauds Reid’s approach and there is some good news. Within the next six to nine months, some 50 new spots will be opened up. It’s not new money being pumped into the project, but a redirection of resources.

“We see the impact of addiction every day,” Mullin said.

While police and the addicts seeking treatment may be frustrated, Mullin said her team focuses on what they can do as opposed to what they can’t.

“It is a complex issue, there are no easy answers.”

Reid said he has no intention of becoming an advocate for methadone treatment, but what he does want is helping in reducing crime in the form of methadone treatment or other support programs for addicts.

Banging on doors and demanding something be done is not what the big bear of a man plans to do, but he said it may come to that.

“I’m just trying to give some people hope,” Reid said.

Police just can’t round up bad guys, said Reid. Police should also address the cause of crime and how to help the people who commit the crimes turn their lives around for the betterment of all.

Too often he hears from his officers and the addicts they arrest that they want to help to break the cycle of addiction, but the addicts can’t get they help they’re desperate for.

“I’m supporting our people and I’m supporting those victims and their victims, essentially, of an addiction,” Reid said.

Demand, he said, drives supply, especially in the world of drugs.

“If you don’t put something in place, then you can build as many jails as you want but you’re still in a catch-and-release program. If you don’t get into a catch-and-release program, then at the end of the day all we’re going to do is what we’re doing now and who’s having any success?”

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  1. Lou
    January 19, 2009 at 2:52 pm

    Smart police chief. I hope it doesn’t fall on deaf ears.

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