Overdoses and break-and-enters ‘brutalizing’ Castlegar

RCMP Sgt. Laurel Matthew shares the frustrations of trying to convince fentanyl users to stop.

Castlegar RCMP Sgt. Laurel Matthew told the Castlegar city council meeting Monday that the city has been “brutalized” by break-and-enters in the last three months.

There have been seven residential break-and-enters, three at businesses and nine involving sheds, for a total of 19. The incidents have primarily happened in the downtown area between 10th St. and the river.

No one was home at the time of any of the residential break-and-enters, but some residents reported someone rattling their doors while they were home but not gaining entry.

There was one arrest in Kelowna for a break-and-enter that occurred in Castlegar, and the RCMP is looking to see if the same individual may have been involved with other local incidents.

“We are still trying to see if there are any others … Quite often they will link,” said Sgt. Matthew.

“It’s not unusual for groups to travel into town, B&E a whole bunch of stuff and then take off,” she said.

Many of the shed incidents happened in the middle of the night or when the residents were not at home and involved missing tools.

“Obviously fencing for drugs or money for drugs,” said Sgt. Matthew. “They are not high-tech crimes looking to home invade you, tie you up and take your stuff. They are stealing power tools, laptops, garden tools.”

“We’ve got the Trail crew, and our crew, and anybody who wants to come out on their time off working through — just hitting the drug houses and doing some surveillance.”

Sgt. Matthew reported that a local fentanyl-dealing case is up for sentencing soon.

“That was all the Crime Reduction Unit and the General Duty guys,” she explained. “They got some information, and followed up on it.”

The suspect showed up, tried to sell some fentanyl, and the arrest was made. He is looking at a mandatory 18-month minimum sentence.

She explained the frustration of dealing with the overdose situation and trying to convince users to avoid the drug.

In response to a question from council about if the fentanyl crisis has abated locally, Sgt. Matthew said, “There have been three, four, five overdoses in the last several months I can think of right off the top of my head.”

“Of course, we have to wait for toxicology to tell us, the thing that killed this person was this …” explained Sgt. Matthew. “Sometimes it comes back that it wasn’t fentanyl.”

She then shared that one overdose she had dealt with recently turned out to be cocaine.

“It is trying to get to the source,” Sgt. Matthew said. “Trafficking in fentanyl — if we can link you back to the fentanyl that killed that person, we can get some decent charges.”

Coun. Deb McIntosh expressed that she would like to see the dangers of fentanyl promoted more prominently in the community.

“I don’t know if fear will work,” said Sgt. Matthew. “Fentanyl is a great thing according to the people we see — if you are still alive, it was a great evening.”

“I don’t get it,” she added. “There are some really fast deaths happening.”

“Fentanyl comes in so many forms, you don’t know how much you are getting,” said Sgt. Matthew. “Quite honestly, the hard-core people, it is not just fentanyl — there is a mixture and your body just can’t take it anymore.”

“How do you approach that? I would love to know because I would be happy to make it an effort to go and speak to everyone that comes in.”

Sgt. Matthew also gave a staffing report explaining that they have been shorthanded, a fact that was magnified over the summer as they had to send members to help with the forest fire situation.

They are staffed at 9.77 out of a full staffing level of 12. The addition of a new member this week will bring the total up, but will still leave the detachment short.

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