Meth in Moose Jaw Part 5: Cold, Hard Stats
The final part in the series
Throughout this series, critics might argue that the stories told are only anecdotal and they might ask for the hard numbers? Where is the proof that escalating violent crime is driven by meth? Or, conversely, they might wonder how I can claim meth abuse is a growing problem just by personal observation and street-level investigation?
Well, here a few facts and statistics to ponder:
Statistics Canada actually measures crime levels through something called the Crime Severity Index or CSI. The CSI measures crime based upon the volume and seriousness of the crime. Serious crimes are given a heavier weight to arrive at the CSI. It is a standardized measure to ensure uniformity in crime reporting.
The CSI was used by Maclean’s magazine to rank North Battleford as the most dangerous place in Canada, with Moose Jaw ranked at 33rd.
In July 2012, then Chief of the Moose Jaw Police Service (MJPS) Dale Larsen, chose to use the 2011 violent crime CSI in a media interview to show crime in Moose Jaw was low in relation to the rest of Canada. In 2011, Moose Jaw had a violent crime CSI average of 67 whereas the Canadian average was 85. In the most recent numbers (2016) Moose Jaw’s violent crime CSI has jumped to 84 whereas the Canadian average violent crime CSI was 75. Moose Jaw’s 2016 violent crime CSI was higher than the national average. Violent crime is going down, on the average, nationally, but in Moose Jaw it is on the rise. The same statistics show an increase in the CSI, in Saskatchewan, from 2014 to 2016.
Now, does this mean you are going to be robbed in Downtown Moose Jaw? No, it's still safe walk the streets at night, it simply means there has been a spike in the level of violent crime out there, incidents, which have occurred.
But here is what needs to be remembered, in the years 2014 through 2016 Moose Jaw’s Violent Crime CSI has increased over 20% in each of those years.
People also say they've noticed an increase in violent crime recently; it's not anecdotal, nor is it media driven alarmism, it's right there in the statistics. All the media did was report on violent crimes as they are supposed to do; they often received their information through press releases from the MJPS.
It should also be noted that Moose Jaw Police Service Chief, Rick Bourassa, told city council, when presenting the 2018 Police Operating Budget request, that he expected to see a drop in crime in 2017. The 2017 CSI and Violent Crime CSIs won't be released until June 2018.
The problem is the violent incidents have been happening with more regularity, seemingly tracking the steady rise in meth availability. Remember how I said, in chapter two, that meth had started to become more readily available in late 2013 and early 2014? The Violent Crime CSI started going upwards in 2014 after a couple of years of being in decline.
In 2012, Regina, Saskatoon and Prince Albert police forces started to report an upward trend in trafficking and possession charges involving meth. In 2014, the numbers rose rapidly in Saskatchewan’s three largest cities. Provincially, police reported a seven times increase in meth related charges from 2013 to 2016. Which, coincidentally, matches the rise in the Province’s Crime Severity Index.
Crime Severity Index / Violent Crime Severity Index
Statistics don't lie, so there is no denying that violent crime, both Provincially, and in Moose Jaw is rising. And what's driving the CSI and Violent Crime CSI’s higher in the three largest communities in the province? The answer is meth.
Isn't it logical, given the transient nature of narcotics use and drug trafficking, that something similar is happening in the Friendly City? Why are our crime and especially violent crime rates rising on similar timelines and paths as other centres? Wouldn’t it be logical to think meth is contributing heavily to the rise of violent and other crimes locally?
In their 2018 Operating Budget presentation MJPS Chief Rick Bourassa told Council the police had a “very busy year” in 2017 with thefts and break and enters being "a bit of a concern.”
“Things typically connected to drug movement,” Chief Bourassa stated, adding “there has been more violent crime and more break and enters; things very much connected to the drug trade.”
But what drug is driving a spike in the crime rate, especially violent crime, in Moose Jaw?
I have no corresponding statistics to offer, but I can add this. What Chief Bourassa did state to Council was that the MJPS targeted certain petty crimes. One of those petty crimes was people rifling through vehicles looking for money. Now, how could someone going through your unlocked, and sometimes locked, vehicle be connected to meth and other drugs? What would drive people to do this?
Although the MJPS have never said it publicly, if you read the literature out there it makes sense. Which drug is so addictive, which drug re-wires the brain and is relatively inexpensive enough to cause this behaviour to happen? Which drug could some poor, desperate soul acquire by stealing the meter money you leave in your console? The answer is meth.
My best educated guess is that it is the victims of meth addiction and other narcotics going through vehicles. The cravings are overwhelming and people will resort to petty crime in search of money or anything they can sell or trade for drugs.
And yes, I realize that is an anecdotal explanation.
When I prepared this series, I did a lot of court time. I went down and sat through criminal proceedings. I did what most people in Moose Jaw rarely do, I attended court. These are public forums, and unless instructed otherwise by the Court, their proceedings are open for anyone and may be reported on. What I learned was that much of the crime was tied to drug dependency and the drug used, more often than not, was meth. If the narcotic involved wasn't mentioned in court, I would simply ask, and the answer was invariably meth.
As someone in public prosecutions told me, crime driven by meth is definitely on the rise. “We are seeing more of it all of the time,” were his exact words.
Now here are some more statistics.
Provincially, meth related admissions to drug treatment facilities throughout the province spiked 200% from 2015 – 2016.
“While the number of provincial admissions to alcohol and drug treatment services has remained relatively stable, there has been a significant increase in the number of individuals who have disclosed crystal meth use in recent years,” the Ministry of Health said in an emailed statement.
Moose Jaw is part of this provincial trend. We are tracking not only the rising provincial crime rates, both violent and non-violent, but we are also part of the rise in meth related admissions for drug treatment.
And how does the Ministry of Health know this?
Simple; when admitted for addictions treatment they ask people what they are addicted to and the Ministry of Health tracks it. These individual’s lives are now statistics. In the latest figures, I was able to learn that 40% of the local admissions for drug treatment in April 2017 were due to Meth. The real sad thing is that half of the people who reported using meth were between the ages of 16-18. Sickening now, isn't it?
Moose Jaw’s dirtiest little secret isn't meth. It's the victims. It's high school kids, children who are starting to pay the price. This is what I saw as I looked into meth. I know what I discovered is only anecdotal, but if what people were telling me is true, prepare for some ugly statistics coming soon.
I started hearing about the youth connection to meth in late February 2017, from ordinary people. How can anyone protect their kids if they don't even know about the danger? Is silence on the subject helping to facilitate its spread? But how do you properly warn the community?
Addiction can strike the poor as well as the affluent. I met someone who grew up in a rich area of town and whose parents are well off. He seemed to have every advantage in life, he never came from a poor background. They've given up on their child due to his meth abuse. They are tired and worn out by “the outbursts, the thefts and continual lies.” They no longer want him around.
“It's those damn drugs. It's too bad; they used to be so close,” is what a friend of the family told me about the situation.
The sad thing is, is that their child is just 19 years old. It truly leaves me wondering what sort of life he will have? Perhaps I am wrong to write this, but does your future end at just age 19? The family agreed to be interviewed and to tell their story. It was to be Chapter Five of this series. But a few weeks back they asked me to not publish it. They worried about being identified and are living through enough guilt and shame already. So I pulled the chapter.
Violence, thefts, broken families and shattered lives. This is the true cost of meth. And the statistics prove it.
If you don't believe me about what I saw and heard and about how meth causes multiple problems in many areas of users’ lives, then look at what the experts say?
“We are also aware that individuals who use crystal meth often experience difficulties in multiple areas of their lives,” the Health Ministry wrote in a prepared statement.
In response, though, to the rise of meth abuse, provincially, the Ministry of Health is taking action and working on “targeted work to be better able to meet the needs of the affected population.”
One must understand the world of bureaucrats, they work not with the anecdotal but statistical and scientific proofs, then they adjust programs. But at least the Province is doing something.
These narrative columns I have written are just one look into the abyss. They are based upon facts, investigation, personal observations and yes, opinion. They track from childhood, the fall into the abyss and the violence, the sales, the arrests, and hopefully, the redemption. Everyone in there is a lost soul. All of them need help in some way.
Following it up with the stats – the hard numbers.
For those struggling from Meth addiction and their loved ones, I wish you well, from what have learned, breaking free is no picnic, but it's not impossible.
Saying no to Crystal is not easy……
For those out there looking for help for themselves or their loved ones to escape the hell of meth or other narcotic addictions please contact:
Mental Health and Addiction Services 306 691-6464
24 Hour Help Line 811