Winnipeg Free Press - ONLINE EDITION

Alcohol-fuelled violence drops in Norway House after RCMP blitz

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The RCMP unleashed a new tool from its policing arsenal on the weekend.

Fifteen additional officers were brought into Norway House for a three-day crack down on illegal booze.

The net result was an absence of alcohol-fuelled violence in the community.

"We’re quite confident we curbed crime in that community, at least for the weekend," RCMP spokeswoman Sgt. Line Karpish said.

The weekend initiative is formally known as DART — Division Action Response Team, a project that brings officers from across the province into a community to deal with a specific or emerging crime issue.

Karpish said this was the first deployment of the Manitoba division’s DART, adding it will likely be used in other communities when and where it’s felt the need requires.

The DART officers almost doubled the number of RCMP officers normally in Norway House — an officially dry reserve that is nevertheless plagued with alcohol-related problems and crime — for the weekend and the combined forces were busy.

During the three-day blitz, DART members set up roadside checkstops which resulted in:

  • 302 vehicles checked;
  • 1 person charged with driving over .08;
  • 52 people charged under the Liquor Control Act;
  • 42 people charged under the Highway Traffic Act (many offences for unlicensed drivers and unregistered vehicles);
  • 2 people charged for possession of marijuana;
  • 1,464 bottles of beer and 32 bottles of liquor seized.

The result was a dramatic decline in the number of violent offences in the community compared to previous weekends, and a 50 per cent reduction in the number of calls for police. The only person jailed during the weekend was the impaired driver caught by the DART blitz.

"This was something we’ve been asking the RCMP to do," Chief Ron Evans said. "We think it was useful."

Evans said the community has a history of alcohol-related violence. Although the community is dry, he said there is a legal vendor located just off the reserve.

Evans said he realizes that some alcohol-related problems will likely re-emerge next weekend without the large presence of police, but added he hoped the initiative will act as a deterrence.

Karpish said policing is often a reactive response, adding the DART project is a proactive approach to enforcement in a community.

"Unfortunately, alcohol is the fuel to violence," Karpish said. "If we get at the source of the problem, then it has a trickle-down effect for us, and it did in this case."

Karpish said the seized beer and liquor will be destroyed.

"It is a temporary thing but it sends a message out that we could be anywhere at any time," Karpish said.

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