Thunder Bay

Recent seizure sign of 'scary' demand for fentanyl in city

A recent fentanyl seizure in Thunder Bay, Ont. is just one indication of the challenge facing police as they try to curb the illicit drug trade in the city.

Illicit drugs being trafficked out of 'dozens' of houses in the city

Shawn Harrison is a staff sergeant with Thunder Bay police. (Cathy Alex/CBC)

A recent fentanyl seizure in Thunder Bay, Ont. is just one indication of the challenge facing police as they try to curb the illicit drug trade in the city.

The quantity that was obtained, just goes to show the demand that exists for the potentially deadly drug, said Staff Sgt. Shawn Harrison, of the Thunder Bay Police Service.

"It tells me and my section that there's a large, large market here in Thunder Bay for these opioid drugs, and it's scary because we know what the fallout is: that we have a large number of overdoses," he said. 

The estimated value of the fentanyl police obtained in a recent seizure in Thunder Bay is more than $160,000. (Thunder Bay Police Service / Submitted)

While cocaine is still more prominent in the city, Harrison said the growing presence of fentanyl has been a particular concern, because it can take very little of the drug to cause an overdose. It's also often cut with other substances, he added, that users may not even be aware they're taking. 

It poses a challenge for the resource-stretched police force, which has also been dealing with the increased presence of gang members originating from southern Ontario, which are both bringing in drugs, and engaging in higher levels of violence. 

He said police are doing their best to respond to calls from people concerned about drug activities in the city, but the public should be aware that officers may not always be able to respond immediately. 

"We know that there's dozens of houses that are being trafficked out of, and it's almost a daily ... notification that, you know, somebody's telling us 'well this house looks like drug activity or that house drug activity.'"

"There's only so much of it, that we can only work on so many, because we aren't unlimited in our people and our resources," he said, adding that the process to obtain warrants also takes time. 

Harrison said the formation of the joint task force, with members of the OPP, Nishnawbe-Aski police and the Anishnabek police is one example of how forces in the area are pooling their resources to try to address the problem.