New Brunswick

Leaders in Miramichi call on residents to help fight city's drug 'crisis'

Both a city councillor and the police chief are asking residents to work with law enforcement, rather than criticize their efforts, as they fight a growing methamphetamine problem.

Police Chief Paul Fiander urges people to help fight methamphetamine abuse by reporting dealers

Coun. Tara Ross-Robinson said everyone in Miramichi has to do their part to help overcome a growing methamphetamine problem in the city. (Tara Ross-Robinson/Facebook)

Both a city councillor and police chief in Miramichi, N.B., are calling on residents to help fight a drug problem described as a "crisis."

Coun. Tara Ross-Robinson said it's her opinion methamphetamine use has reached crisis levels in the city, but she said the community has to help the police rather than criticize their efforts.  

"It's rampant and it's everywhere," she said. "Residents, family, friends, everybody I talk to, they're impatient, they're scared, they're frustrated. They don't know what to do." 

Ross-Robinson made a statement about the city's drug problem, including the increasing sale and use of methamphetamine, at a recent city council meeting after reading criticism about the city's police department. 

"I was prompted in part by stuff I had seen on social media indicating that perhaps the police aren't doing all that they can." 

Dangerous environment

The increase in methamphetamine abuse has been linked to an increase in petty theft. (Submitted by Cape Breton Regional Police)
Ross-Robinson said it was a good time to make the statement as council was hearing from retired RCMP officer Alphonse McNeil, who had been hired to conduct an operational review of the police department. 

McNeil's said his review found the methamphetamine abuse hasn't had much of an impact on calls for service. But he said it has created a "societal and health issue" and created a dangerous environment for police officers who respond to calls. 

He added that anecdotal evidence indicates a "strong correlation" between criminal activity in the city and methamphetamine use.

Education key in helping

Ross-Robinson's statement was partly motivated by posts in the Facebook group Stolen Items in Miramichi, in which people normally put up photos of items stolen from their homes and businesses.

Several recent posts have been critical of what members perceive is a lack of action from the police and courts to do anything to help.

Ross-Robinson said the community has to be aware that the drug use is affecting everyone, not just those who are dealing or using. 

"As a community we need to work together to try and find a solution." 

Ross-Robinson said just being angry or pretending the drug abuse isn't happening isn't the answer. She said education is key to understanding the dangers and realities of using but also where support can be found for those in need. 

"We have to communicate and we have to work together," she said, adding people are talking about it since she made the statement and in turn posted it to her to her public Facebook page. 

"It's a step in the right direction."

Miramichi Police Force Chief Paul Fiander said methamphetamine use is hitting the city hard and his department is doing its best to fight it, but needs the community's help. 

He said residents can help by ensuring their residences and vehicles are locked, nothing of value is left lying around in front or back yards and sheds and baby barns are locked. 

'Get a handle on this problem'

Miramichi Police Chief Paul Fiander said people can call anonymously with information on methamphetamine dealers. (New Brunswick Association of Chiefs of Police)
Additionally, Fiander said a community advisory committee has been formed to address the methamphetamine issue. While it's in the early stages, he said it goes hand-in-hand with Ross-Robinson's statement. 

"By everybody working together, hopefully we can get a handle on this problem." 

Fiander said the police force has deployed resources, including crime prevention and its reduction unit.

McNeil's recommendation to restore a community services officer was welcomed. It could be implemented, pending council's approval. 

But until that happens, Fiander is asking members of the public to report anything they might know or anything suspicious they see. 

"If they are aware of any information with regards to anyone that is selling methamphetamine … please contact us," he said.  

The police chief said they want information, not the callers' names.  

"Unfortunately this is the day and age we live in," he said. "It takes an entire community to work together and unfortunately we are not just going to be able to arrest our way out this."