Nfld. & Labrador

Police scrap combined drug trafficking unit, RNC to focus more on street drugs

The RNC will spend more time policing street-level drug activity, after its combined forces unit with the RCMP is disbanded.

RCMP will continue fighting organized crime, while RNC take a lower level approach

RNC Chief Joe Boland and RCMP Chief Supt. Garrett Woolsey say they'll continue to work together when necessary, but not with the Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit. (CBC/Ted Dillon)

The Royal Newfoundland Constabulary will spend more time policing street level drug activity, after its combined forces unit with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police is disbanded.

The Combined Special Forces Enforcement Unit featured members of both police agencies, and focused on organized crime and drug trafficking.

But RNC Chief Joe Boland said Thursday the unit's mandate was outdated — and missing a key aspect for the areas they police.

"[Community leaders] were very adamant that they wanted more enforcement at the street level," Boland said. 

"The CFSEU model, just the mandate of that unit, it didn't allow us to get in at the street level and to interrupt that kind of drug activity."

Changes won't hamper investigations, police say

The RNC will reassign its officers from the CFSEU and form a new drug investigation unit.

Meanwhile, the RCMP will move its officers to its federal policing team, still focusing on organized crime and higher level drug traffickers.

Both the RNC and RCMP will continue to work together on the province's Internet Child Exploitation Unit, which is based in St. John's, Gander and Corner Brook.

The CFSEU was the unit behind a high profile bust on the Vikings Motorcycle Club in St. John's. (Cec Haire/CBC)

They will also maintain a close relationship on drug cases when an investigation warrants teamwork. 

"We're listening," Boland said. "We're listening to the community and this is the model we feel is best suited for us right now."

RCMP Chief Supt. Garrett Woolsey said the unit's current investigations will not be affected by the change in staffing.

Cautious optimism in Tessier Place

One of the most vocal neighbourhood groups in St. John's is happy to see the dedication of more officers to street level crime.

Lorne Loder, a member of the Tessier Place neighbourhood association, said people are scared in their own homes.

"I think drugs are evidently a big problem in this area," he said. "We've been lobbying the police, the RNC in particular, for more patrols in this area."

Lorne Loder is cautiously optimistic to hear the RNC will beef up enforcement of street-level drugs. He's complained to police before about drug activity around Tessier Place. (Jeremy Eaton/CBC)

Members of the association have complained about the drug use, violence and property crimes in their neighbourhood — both to the police and the media.

Used syringes are a common sight in the green space on the corner of Long's Hill and Livingstone Street, and late night screaming matches wake the neighbours, according to Loder.

He hopes the RNC's dedication to more drug enforcement will clean up the problems residents see in the area. 

"I think with a police presence, things have to get better. Any criminal activity has to wane when the police are present, and that's what we're hoping for."

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador