RCMP say prolific offenders, not casual pot smokers, the reason so many possession charges laid | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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RCMP say prolific offenders, not casual pot smokers, the reason so many possession charges laid

Kelowna RCMP Supt. Nick Romanchuk says the city has the highest rate charges for simple possession of marijuana in Canada because his officers target prolific offenders.
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KELOWNA - To all you closet pot smokers in Kelowna worried the RCMP is coming after your stash, you can chill.

“It isn’t the recreational pot smoker we’re going after here,” Supt. Nick Romanchuk says, pointing instead to a small group of prolific offenders as the target.

“These are the people causing the most crime in the community," he says.

Kelowna’s top cop was reacting to numbers from Statistics Canada showing the city to have the highest rate of charges per capita for simple possession of pot — 250.51 per 100,000 residents — across Canada.

That's more than three times the Canadian average of 79.27.

When that number came out last week, reaction on social media was swift, generally condeming the RCMP for wasting resources on low-level crime, or deploring what they saw as Kelowna's big drug habit but Romanchuk says that’s not the case.

“People have to understand how those stats work," he says. "It’s all police driven and a reflection of enforcement.“

As part of the drive to reduce street crime, Romanchuk says police will target prolific offenders and charge them with whatever they can to disrupt their situation.

“We know a lot of the criminals in the downtown core are involved in the drug trade, stealing bikes, or breaking into premises. This is a way of targetting them. They can’t commit crimes when they are in jail,” he says.

Far from marijuana being the drug of choice, Romanchuk says police generally encounter other street drugs more often than they do marijuana.

“When we do our undercover operations we tend to encounter more heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine and GHB than we do marijuana,” he says.

Romanchuk says police do discuss enforcement priorities with the city, but decide on their own how to reach the goal.

“There is no one-size-fits-all. For Vancouver and other communities (targeting prolific offenders) may not work, it may not be the silver bullet, but it works for us right now and has helped improve our crime stats,” he says.

“It’s pretty easy to find someone smoking a joint in Kelowna but we’re not after the low-hanging fruit.”

To contact the reporter for this story, email John McDonald at jmcdonald@infonews.ca or call 250-808-0143. To contact the editor, email mjones@infonews.ca or call 250-718-2724

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