Regina police have been dealing with record-high drug overdoses, homicides and the growing number of suicides, among other things.
Police Chief Evan Bray sits down with Global News’ Allison Bamford to take a deeper dive into the city’s biggest concerns.
The following are his answers in a Q&A format.
Q – Ninety-three people have died from apparent drug overdoses in the city, 16 in November alone. Why are we seeing these record-breaking numbers?
A – I think it’s been magnified through COVID and there’s probably a variety of reasons. We can’t put our thumb exactly on one specific reason, but meth was not something that was very easily accessible through the year with borders being shut down and not as many people travelling. Of course, the supply of meth was very limited to our community and as a result, people that struggle with addictions, people that have these substance abuse issues, will always, sadly, find another way to fill that addiction and fuel that addiction. So things like fentanyl became much more prevalent in our community. And fentanyl carries with it a serious health risk from a police perspective.
Q – What do you think needs to be done to help address this going into the new year?
A – There is some great work going on with the Ministry of Health, the Saskatchewan Health Authority and other partners to develop a long-term strategy to dig into this. This means inpatient and outpatient services and supports for people that suffer with a substance abuse addiction.
Along with that, there has to be some form of harm reduction work. We have to find a way. We have to understand that this work that we’re talking about, collaborative work on long-term solutions, doesn’t solve the problem today. Today, people are dying. Today, people are having health challenges and we have to find harm reduction methods.
Q – Regina has seen 11 homicides in 2020, which is up from nine last year and six in 2018. What are the reasons behind these growing numbers?
A – I would say predominantly when we investigate serious assaults and homicides, it’s drugs and some sort of a dispute that happens within a domestic circle. It doesn’t necessarily mean it’s family, but it could be a group of friends. Underlying in there is some gang challenges that we have in our community. I don’t think we can point to gangs and say that’s the reason behind the high number of homicides. But from time to time, that sort of high-risk lifestyle does play a role in these types of investigations for sure.
Q – What do you think needs to be done or what would you like to see in the new year that would take some pressure off officers in terms of mental health calls.
A – The problem is that oftentimes, especially when you’re talking about mental health challenges or you’re talking about addiction challenges, they manifest themselves in a different way. They manifest themselves in a call for service that police clearly have to go to. We get a call that someone is threatening someone with a knife. Once we calm the situation down, we get the knife away and we start peeling back the layers of the onion. We find out there’s an addiction problem or we find out there’s a mental health problem. That is the crucial point where we need community partners to help those. We have to find a way to provide some sustainable long-term support and care for those that are suffering with issues that handcuffs are not going to solve.
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