Regional police, drug courts get a funding boost

By Catherine Griwkowsky August 19, 2020

The UCP is amping up funding for drug treatment courts and new police units to tackle organized crime.
Justice Minister Doug Schweitzer made the announcement in Medicine Hat, the location of one of five new drug courts planned outside of Edmonton and Calgary. 
Drug treatment courts, which have been operating in the province since 2005, offer non-violent offenders a 12-to-18 month treatment program as an alternative to incarceration.
Schweitzer, who headed up Calgary’s drug treatment court prior to his entry into politics, told AB Today they have shown signs of success at reducing recidivism, noting 70 per cent of graduates of the drug treatment court program do not reoffend.
Red Deer and Lethbridge were previously selected for new drug courts, and two more centres are yet to be revealed. The five new sites, which will receive a combined $20 million over the next four years, are scheduled to open late next year.
The UCP previously announced a plan to double the capacity of the Edmonton and Calgary programs from 40 to 80 participants annually. Schweitzer said the new smaller centres will likely see 10 to 15 participants at a time.
“This is part of our provincewide strategy — that the way to combat crime is to cut off drugs at their source and support addicts to prevent them from reoffending,” Schweitzer said in a news release.
The UCP plans to use drug courts in conjunction with more addictions treatment spaces. 
In February, Mental Health and Addictions associate minister Jason Luan announced $140 million in funding to increase the number of treatment beds in the province by 2,172 over three years.

So far, the province has pitched in $5 million to fund a 75-bed recovery centre in Red Deer, as well as 125 beds in two centres to be located in Lethbridge County and the Blood Tribe First Nation. 
Schweitzer against decriminalizing possession
Last month, the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police issued a plea to decriminalize simple possession of drugs. British Columbia Premier John Horgan backed the call, saying he will push the federal government to treat addiction as a health issue.
Schweitzer rejected that idea.
In an interview with AB Today, Schweitzer said it is important to maintain a “carrot and stick” approach — which encourages offenders to choose treatment over jail time — and that enforcement shouldn’t fall by the wayside.
“People that are coming in, they have to want to get well, they have to want to receive treatment,” Schweitzer said, adding that the diversion from the criminal system is voluntary.

Funding boost for rural police squad
Also Tuesday, Schweitzer announced $50 million for the Alberta Law Enforcement Response Teams (ALERT), a police coalition that tackles organized crime and child exploitation.
In April, ALERT created a Southeast Alberta Property Crime Unit in partnership with the RCMP and Medicine Hat Police Service. Since then, the unit arrested 73 people on 254 charges and seized $240,000 worth of stolen property, $33,900 worth of drugs, nine stolen vehicles and five firearms.
According to the Medicine Hat Police Service, nine people with ties to drug trafficking and organized crime stole $1.6 million worth of goods between September 2017 and September 2019. 
Chief Andy McGrogan, said “in this corner of the province, at times we feel like we’re ignored,” and thanked Schweitzer for “coming up with the dough.”