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Police planning methods to rein in problem drunks

RCMP are going to ramp up their presence in the downtown area in hopes of curbing the number of public drunks, says the officer in charge of the detachment here.

But Staff Sergeant Eric Stubbs says tactics such as foot patrols and bike patrols will take time to develop and need to be done correctly without affecting other areas of policework.

Stubbs met with city council and business leaders last week in response to growing calls by business owners and others to halt the increase in public drinking and its consequences, which include assaults, fighting, people passing out and disturbances.

“It is something we are dealing with quite a bit and it is something that we are developing a response to,” said Stubbs.

At the least, officers can pick up people and place them in police cells for eight hours through the Liquor Control and Licensing Act.

Depending upon the situation, people can also be charged through the criminal code.

Stubbs did note, however, that officers routinely pick up the same people for intoxication and that fines or other sanctions do not and will not change their pattern of behaviour.

“They are simply not deterred by convictions,” he said of whatever court-ordered sanctions that may result.

“This is not solely a police matter. There’s a mixture of everything but a piece of the pie is policing.”

Stubbs did warn that simply being intoxicated in a public place may not be an offense that will draw the attention of police.

“If someone looks like they’re making progress, that they are going somewhere, we might not take action. But if a person is considered a danger to themselves or to others, say a person is passed out, that would be something else,” said Stuffs.

Yet officers will conduct patrols in the detachment’s transport vehicle, commonly called a paddywagon, right after social assistance cheques have been issued.

“The guys will go out and scoop people up before something happens. We will do that to be proactive,” said Stubbs.

The detachment last year got together with local social services agencies and devised a program to have a counsellor on hand whenever the RCMP released a person who had been intoxicated.

The idea was that the counsellor would inform the person of what services were available. Stubbs said the success of the program was hard to determine because seeking help was up to the person being released.

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