Burin-based federal RCMP unit shifts gears

Paul Herridge
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While ‘bootlegging’ is still on the radar, illegal drug trade more of a problem

It’s been about a year since a shift in the RCMP at the federal policing level came into effect. 

RCMP

Before Apr. 1, 2013, federal units were identified and assigned to specific areas of mandate – customs and excise, drug enforcement or some other specialization.

Now, however, serious organized crime, in general, is the target, irrespective of the commodity.

For the Burin-based unit, in addition to how the it does business, the shift meant a name change from Customs and Excise to Federal Policing Operations West.

Whereas before the section was focused on the smuggling of contraband, chiefly from the French islands of St. Pierre and Miquelon, Sergeant John Cribb, said the product, as long as it’s illegal, no longer really factors into the equation.

“We’re no longer focused on a specific commodity like tobacco or alcohol or drugs. We focus on wherever the problem is, whether it be alcohol, tobacco or drugs.”

Though smuggling from St. Pierre and Miquelon is still very much on the unit’s radar everyday, Sgt. Cribb, the unit’s team leader, said the illegal drug trade on the Burin Peninsula has overtaken ‘bootlegging’.  

 “Obviously, drugs are probably the main problem, and prescription drugs are right up there at the top, as bad as any of the other drugs like cocaine or marijuana, and I think everybody kind of knows that.”

Sgt. Cribb, who explained organized crime is simply defined as three or more individuals working together to commit illegal activity, described people who trade illegal drugs as “entrepreneurs” who often dabble in contraband alcohol or cigarettes, as well, if there’s a buck to be made.

“We’re no longer focused on a specific commodity like tobacco or alcohol or drugs. We focus on wherever the problem is, whether it be alcohol, tobacco or drugs.” Sgt. John Cribb

“We haven’t forgotten anything. Everything is still covered. It’s just that we focus now on individual groups.”

As far as staffing goes, Sgt. Cribb said there are still 10 employees stationed at the RCMP’s Burin office, the same number as before, including eight regular members, an engineer for the patrol vessel, ‘MV Murray’, and a public servant tasked with office administration and other duties. However, the group is now one team, giving it more leverage, whereas before there were separate mandates.

“Now we come to work and we’re all – most of the time – working on the same project.”

Sgt. Cribb said the unit has laid several charges related to illegal drug trafficking, estimating there are currently about a dozen cases before the courts.

“Right now, we’re fully engaged, and it’s been fairly successful so far.”

pherridge@southerngazette.ca

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