A recent drug bust conducted by police from multiple agencies underscores the co-ordinated nature of the fight against organized crime, according to the head of the Prince Albert Police Service.
© Herald file photo
Prince Albert Police Chief Troy Cooper
Five search warrants were served on Monday following a nine-month investigation into illicit drug trafficking, money laundering and possession of property obtained by crime conducted by the Prince Albert team of the Saskatchewan Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit (CFSEU) and the Integrated Organized Crime -- North (Proceeds of Crime) Unit (IOC-N).
The investigation focused on the communities of Mistatim, Tisdale and Arborfield, which are located between 130 kilometers and 200 kilometres east of Prince Albert.
“We have some officers that are assigned to the local Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit office,” Prince Albert Police Chief Troy Cooper said. “That unit itself, it’s an integrated unit with the RCMP and the Prince Albert Police Service locally.
“There are similar offices in Saskatoon and in Regina integrated there … These offices are funded provincially and their purpose is to disrupt and disorganize organized crime groups.”
“In Saskatchewan often we find organized crime involved in the drug trade, and that was sort of what led us I think to this recent investigation,” he added.
As part of the investigation in the three communities, police seized or restrained 32 pounds of marijuana, two ounces of cocaine, three commercial properties, four residential properties, five vehicles and more than $230,300 in Canadian currency.
Three people were arrested and charged with a range of crimes including drug trafficking, drug possession, possession of proceeds or property obtained by crime and/or money laundering. Each was scheduled to appear in Melfort Provincial Court on Tuesday.
Meanwhile, four other individuals were arrested and charged with possession of marijuana for the purpose of trafficking and/or possession of the proceeds of property obtained by crime. They will be released after appearing before a Justice of the Peace and will have dates set to appear in provincial court on April 22.
One person arrested during the searches has been released without police laying any charges against them.
The operation on Monday involved 67 police officers from agencies across the province including cities such as Regina, Saskatoon, Moose Jaw and Estevan.
Local agencies represented included CFSEU teams from Prince Albert, the Prince Albert RCMP General Investigation Section, the Prince Albert Integrated Street Enforcement Team (ISET), the Prince Albert Police Service and members of the Prince Albert RCMP detachment.
In Saskatchewan often we find organized crime involved in the drug trade, and that was sort of what led us I think to this recent investigation. Police Chief Troy Cooper
Inspector Dave Haye, officer in charge of the Saskatchewan CFSEU noted that the Prince Albert officers present were seconded to the provincial unit.
“The members who are seconded to CFSEU come under the control of the officer in charge of CFSEU,” he said. “So we pick our projects based on whether or not they involved organized crime groups or serious crime and then we do our investigations from there.”
Explaining the advantages for Prince Albert police in taking part in co-ordinated efforts with other agencies, Chief Cooper said that by offering access to the services and resources of the RCMP, such partnerships provided them opportunity to reach into organized crime in a way that would not be possible using only local resources.
“We also have inter-provincial relationships with combined forces units,” Cooper said. “So for example, if someone is dealing (and) part of the technicals of the organized crime reach into B.C. or Alberta or into the United States, we have an ability then through the CFSEU units to sort of tackle that in the different jurisdictions without worrying about which agency they belong to.
“It’s a more flexible approach to organized crime by removing some of our jurisdictional issues,” he added.
Individuals dealing drugs or taking part in other organized criminal activities, the chief noted, have a spillover effect on surrounding communities.
As a result, co-ordinating police efforts can help provide benefits to each community, as well as encouraging the sharing of information and resources.
“Rather than have two or three different police agencies working on the same organized crime group, we can do this in a collaborative way,” Cooper said.
“We just think it’s really valuable way to address organized crime,” he added. “The CFSEU units have been found in many provinces. It’s an effective way to deliver an integrated service to address a problem that doesn’t have any boundaries.”