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NNSL Photo/Graphic

Const. Sean O'Brien of the Rankin Inlet detachment of the RCMP attacks the drug culture on the streets and in the classroom. - Darrell Greer/NNSL photo

Community input key to fighting crime

Darrell Greer
Northern News Services

Rankin Inlet (July 14/04) - There's a new sheriff in town when it comes to drug trafficking in Rankin Inlet, says RCMP Sgt. Grant St. Germaine.

Const. Sean O'Brien transferred to Rankin on May 26, after spending almost two years in Arviat.

Germaine says O'Brien has an extensive background in drug enforcement, and is well versed in working with informants and other sources in battling the drug trade.

He says a detachment becomes more proactive in its approach to drug enforcement when an officer like O'Brien comes on-board.

"What tends to happen is that the rest of the people in the detachment start to worry about looking bad because they're not doing as much as the new officer," says Germaine.

"I've already seen some positive things happening within the detachment since Const. O'Brien's arrival.

"You're going to see some major drug-enforcement initiatives take place over the next three to five months, and they'll be spearheaded by Const. O'Brien.

"There are already things on my desk, that I can't talk about publicly, indicating that's the route we're taking."

Germaine says you don't have to go undercover to be effective in the fight against drugs.

He says in smaller communities, police are actually more effective by being in uniform.

"A lot of people will give us information simply because they want to help, while others have their own motives behind it.

"You'll even see one drug dealer rat out another to get rid of the competition and hope we don't find out they're a dealer, too."

Working both ends

O'Brien says the combination of enforcement and being proactive in schools attacks the drug problem from both ends.

But, he says, the time he spends in schools isn't just about drugs.

"A lot of what I do in the schools is about getting to know the kids, giving them a positive image of the police and being approachable as a person," says O'Brien.

"Very little of the DARE (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) program focuses on drug abuse.

"A lot of it deals with cigarette smoking and alcohol abuse, and I tailor it a bit to include snuff and other problems in the North such as sniffing propane."

O'Brien says drug enforcement has followed him around during his more than six years as an RCMP officer.

The officer has taken special training in pipeline operations, criminal intelligence and investigative techniques.

He says his biggest weapon against drugs has always been the community.

"I try to harness whatever feelings may exist in the community.

"If there's people who feel there's a problem, I'm a guy who can facilitate dealing with that problem.

"After six months on the force, I had already done about six search warrants for drugs and I haven't stopped yet."

O'Brien says while everyone has an opinion on the use of marijuana, the fact of the matter is whenever you go to a community with break-and-enter problems there's always drug use involved.

"By attacking the drug problem, I tend to take care of a good deal of the theft problems in a community.

"Getting drugs off the street is a good thing in itself, and helping to stop other crime in the process is a bonus."

Citizens key to success

O'Brien spends a lot of time seeking input from local residents.

He says once the problems are identified to him, he's relentless in his pursuit of the cause until the problem is dealt with.

O'Brien had only been in Rankin for about three weeks when he executed his first search warrant, resulting in charges of possession with the intent to traffic being laid.

He says Arviat residents were very active in identifying problems in the community and, as a result, RCMP members seized large quantities of drugs and alcohol, and solved a number of break and enters.

"If the community has a need or desire to act on certain things, I have the skills to make that happen.

"It's almost impossible for us to do many of the things a community wants without the support of its residents.

"That's why developing a sense of trust with people is so important to successful law enforcement.

"Almost everything we're able to accomplish, especially in the area of drug enforcement, begins with community involvement."