By Joel Wittnebel/The Oshawa Express
In an effort to further combat the spread of fentanyl on the region’s streets, Durham police and Crime Stoppers have teamed up for an initiative to hopefully encourage some potential tipsters to pick up the phone.
For the next two months, Crime Stoppers is set to pay out a $1,000 reward for any tips or information that leads to the seizure of illicit fentanyl or its derivatives for the purpose of trafficking, or the arrest of any individuals involved in the trafficking of the dangerous drug.
“It’s becoming a real increase in the communities,” says Const. Dana Edwards, DRPS’ Crime Stoppers coordinator. “It’s not just Durham Region – it’s all over.”
And while this marks the first time the two organizations have launched an initiative solely for fentanyl-related information, the program follows in the footsteps of a similar program launched for the months of February and March by Crime Stoppers of Simcoe Dufferin Muskoka.
In recent years, an infiltration of fentanyl into the local drug market has been increasing and this new program isn’t the first that has sprung up in an effort to curb problems caused by its illicit use.
In 2014, in an effort to combat the use of illicit fentanyl patches following a rash of eight overdoses – seven of them linked back to heroin laced with fentanyl – Lakeridge Health partnered with DRPS to launch the Patch for Patch program, a program that requires fentanyl patch users to return their used patches in order to receive new ones.
However, the numbers in Ontario are startling. The most recent data from the Chief Coroner’s Office of Ontario shows that fentanyl has been the most deadly opioid since 2014, jumping from 86 incidents in 2010 where “the drug was felt to be a direct contributor to the death” to 162 in 2015.
And the last year was a busy one for Durham police, who tracked down several batches of fentanyl-laced drugs including a high profile bust at the start of 2016 that saw police execute search warrants at an Oshawa townhouse and the East Toronto Chapter of the Hells Angels motorcycle gang, resulting in the arrest of three suspects and the seizure of cocaine, marijuana, resin and 12 fentanyl patches. As well, 2016 saw police culminate a three-month investigation dubbed Project Explorer, in which officers from the DRPS Drug Enforcement Unit and the drug unit of the Halton Regional Police focus on the trafficking of heroin laced with fentanyl and a trio of suspects arrested following an undercover drug deal.
In terms of the tips, Edwards says the more information a caller can provide, the better it is for investigators. She adds that if the pilot program is successful, there are chances of it being repeated.
“It may not be every month, but we may decide if it was successful in these two months, if we got an increase in tips and successful tips that resulted in charges, then we may run it again for another month throughout the year,” she says.
Anonymous tips can be submitted to Crime Stoppers by calling 1-800-222-TIPS (8477) or online at durhamregionalcrimestoppers.ca.