A long tradition of bootlegging on Newfoundland's Burin Peninsula is evolving, as RCMP who used to chase liquor smugglers now find themselves looking for pill peddlers instead.

The RCMP has been fighting bootlegging on the Burin Peninsula — a hotbed for importers, due to its proximity to the French islands of St-Pierre-Miquelon — since Newfoundland joined Confederation in 1949.

But over the years, criminal activity has shifted to drugs, from street drugs like marijuana to the illegal sale of prescription narcotics.

"The criminal element, they don't confine themselves to just one product," said Sgt. John Cribb.

Bootlegging on the Burin Peninsula

Bootlegging of alcohol and other contraband has been a chronic target for police on the Burin Peninsula. (CBC)

"They're entrepreneurs. They will go where the money is. They will be involved in tobacco, they will be involved in alcohol, they will be involved in drugs."

The RCMP used to have separate units to tackle bootlegging and the drug trade. With contraband activity giving way to trafficking, the Mounties now approach their investigations as a comprehensive unit.

"So now we have that flexibility that we basically investigate the individual, the group, the person and we pursue them, no matter which road that takes us down, whether it's the drug road or alcohol or tobacco, so we pursue the group as opposed to the commodity," Cribb said.

The RCMP's mandate now is to investigate, disrupt and dismantle serious and organized crime — with organized crime defined as three or more people working together in illegal operations.  

"We have a system where we establish who would be the main problem person in a certain area and we focus our resources on that individual or group for as long as we can until there is some kind of resolve," said Cribb. 

RCMP on the Burin Peninsula currently have 12 cases before the courts.