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Mean streets

On patrol after the bars close

Jennifer McPhee
Northern News Services

Yellowknife (Apr 11/03) - It's a Friday night after bars close and on 50th Street RCMP are deciding what to do with an intoxicated elder outside the Gold Range.

Because of her age, they don't want to take her to the drunk tank. Maybe the women's shelter will take her.

She looks at least 70 years old, is dressed in traditional clothing, and speaks only Dogrib. Luckily, the shelter lets her in.

I'm on a ride along with Const. Dino Norris on the Caribou Carnival weekend. We're driving around in a white unmarked police car, which people keep mistaking for a cab.

Norris isn't technically working tonight.

He's not in a car equipped to pick up anyone.

He's driving around pointing out things, showing me what RCMP deal with on a busy night.

The night started around 8 p.m. At that time, 15 people were in the tank -- that number will more than double by the night's end.

However, considering it's Caribou Carnival, things aren't as bad as they could be.

According to Sgt. Al McCambridge, this could be because of scaled back carnival events, or because of the publicity surrounding the Archie Tsetta inquest.

In any case, nobody's complaining.

As we begin the night, Norris points to groups of teenagers loitering along 50th street amid the steady stream of bar-hoppers and drunks.

"The reality of it is these kids are just waiting till it's their turn," he says.

We follow a staggering man making his way to the liquor store.

On his way, he runs into a friend carrying a flat of beer and they leave in a van.

A woman, often intoxicated downtown, is coming out of the liquor store.

"Look at her eyes," said Norris.

"It's like there's nobody there... It's unnatural."

Over the radio, various calls come in. Someone is worried about a baby at a party where everyone is intoxicated. People are smoking crack in the washroom of a bar. The calls keep coming.

Near the mall, a drunk man walks straight into a parking meter.

Another young man is walking around, looking for a fight. He sees the car, stops and lets loose a string of obscenities.

We watch some teenagers parked at the liquor store, obviously hoping to convince someone old enough to buy them booze. They are spooked away, but keep trying to come back.

At the corner of 51st and 52nd streets, two young men are standing outside their cars, arguing.

At least one of them is intoxicated. When they try to get back into the car, Norris stops them and finds open cans of beer and pepper spray. They are arrested and taken away.

Soon after, Norris speeds off to back up a couple officers arresting a man -- considered violent and dangerous -- for trying to break into a house near the golf course.

Then we head to Tim Hortons to look for a donut-maker, on day parole, who didn't return to jail. He's not there, say staff who are leaving.

Back downtown, a man waiting in the lineup at the Raven slips and hits his head on the concrete.

He lies there, his eyes moving back and forth.

Norris slips a little pillow under his head until the ambulance arrives.

The bars are closed now and a mob of drunk people are standing on 50th street. Every once in a while someone is herded into a police van and taken away.

A call comes over the radio. The elderly woman at the women's shelter is screaming at the top of her lungs, and waking everybody up.

An officer goes back and brings her to the tank.