Winnipeg Free Press - ONLINE EDITION

The war on drugs

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Steven Prance was ready to conquer the world.The Winnipeg high school football star had a full-time job, loving girlfriend and a strong, supportive family.Then along came a so-called “friend” with an offer that was too tempting to resist - allow for some goods to be stashed in his apartment in exchange for some quick cash.Prance, 22, is now the one paying a steep price.He pleaded guilty to drug possession charges this week - and was promptly sentenced to five years in prison.Prance - who had no prior criminal record and wasn’t a drug user or trafficker - left court in handcuffs to begin serving his sentence while his girlfriend and nearly one-year-old son looked on.A tipster led investigators to Prance’s home in December 2006, where two kilograms of cocaine and three kilograms of marijuana were found hidden inside. Total street value is pegged at more than $150,000.“This was not the wisest decision. He saw an easy way to make a quick score. It is probably something Steven will regret all the rest of his days,” defence lawyer Evan Roitenberg told court.No kidding.Prance is just the latest in a long line of people to parade through the courthouse, their lives either in shambles or completely ruined as a result of drugs.I've said it before and I'll say it again. There isn't a single bigger problem in the city of Winnipeg these days than the prevalance of drugs, especially crack cocaine.Nearly every crime that is committed - from your car getting stolen, house getting broken into or local gas station being robbed - can be either directly or indirectly traced back to drugs.Drug abuse knows no boundaries. It's happening in the inner-city, in the suburbs, in the country. It's affecting the poor, the middle-class, the rich. It's hurting people who grew up in broken families and people who grew up in strong, supportive families.The wide-reaching impact was on display Tuesday night during the emotional "T.J.s Gift - A Gala Evening" fundraiser in Winnipeg.Several hundred people from all walks of life - including politicians, police officers, social workers, school teachers and students - came together to remember a young man whose life ended violently because of his involvement in the drug subculture. (Click HERE for previous blog post on the event)We also heard from a tremendously brave young man, a guest speaker who told the hushed crowd how he nearly died of a drug overdose last summer and spent two months in a coma.Now he's got a second chance at life, and he's using it to help educate others. Just as the wonderful family of T.J. Wiebe have devoted their efforts to helping others in their slain son's memory.Here's an idea. Let's use this forum to share your own experiences with drugs - either personally, or involving a family member, friend, neighbour. When did the problem begin? And how did it end - if at all? And what ideas do you have for dealing with the broader problem society is facing?Let's face it. Longer jail sentences (which we are indeed seeing these days when drugs are involved) can only go so far. Because putting one dealer behind bars only opens the door for another to swoop in and make some extra cash.Until you actually start dealing with the demand for drugs, there will always be people willing to risk their freedom - however stiff the penalties - in order to come up with the supply.The Wiebe family have a great thing going with T.J.s Gift. But I believe we can all do more to make our streets and communities safer.www.mikeoncrime.com

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About Mike McIntyre

Journalist, national radio show host, author, pundit and cruise director ... Mike McIntyre loves to keep busy.

Mike is the justice reporter for the Winnipeg Free Press, where he has worked since 1997. He produces and hosts the weekly talk radio show Crime and Punishment, which runs on the Corus Radio Network in several Canadian cities.

Born and bred in Winnipeg, Mike graduated from River East Collegiate and completed his journalism studies in the Creative Communications program at Red River College.

He and his wife, Chassity, have two children.

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