© Guardian photo by Heather Taweel
About 40 people arrested during Thursday morning's Operation Clean Sweep drug raids are appearing before a justice of the peace in Charlottetown this morning.
Operation Clean Sweep makes dent; alarming numbers cause for concern
As Islanders awoke early Thursday morning they were greeted with the startling news that an enormous drug sweep was underway throughout Charlottetown. Early reports indicated that upwards of 40 people were facing arrest on drug related charges as more than 15 residences and properties were being searched.
The first reaction was why would police be tipping off suspects so they could escape or destroy evidence? It soon became apparent that by the time the news went public, most of the key police work was done. Officers were busy for several hours beforehand and had alerted the media to allay any fears for people seeing scores of officers and emergency vehicles swarming throughout the city.
Based on what we saw over the next day or so, it appears we are facing an emergency. The sheer volume of trafficking in hard drugs, possession of dangerous weapons and the large number of people suspected of involvement in such activities is alarming.
Police seized drugs valued at more than $400,000, plus guns, other weapons, cash and 11 vehicles. Sixteen searches were made, 38 people arrested and more are being sought. Approximately 100 charges are expected. Dozens of City police officers were assisted by Kensington, Summerside and RCMP personnel.
It was an impressive display of investigative police work and co-operation. As the suspects were taken into court Friday morning, police already had a press kit ready with a list of names, addresses and charges for distribution to media.
It was apparent that police were targeting suspects for some time and had encountered few surprises.
Operation Clean Sweep involved more than four months of patient police work and showed clearly that police are well aware of the inner workings of the drug trade in the city and know the key players.
The raids show we have a serious drug problem, especially in the trafficking and possession of cocaine and hydromorphone. It also shows we have an adept police service which is well aware of what’s going on with drug trafficking.
Police believe they made a significant dent in the drug supply chain. Anything that keeps drugs off the street, especially away from schools and young people is a good thing.
No parking tax? Yawn
Islanders shouldn’t expect any relief from a federal announcement last week to remove the tax on hospital parking. The decision by federal Finance Minister Jim Flaherty will remove the HST or GST on hospital parking fees for patients and visitors. It seems a token gesture and despite Mr. Flaherty’s assurances the measure is effective immediately, in reality it’s only a proposal.
For some Islanders the measure will have no impact because the QEH in Charlottetown is the only hospital which charges a parking fee. The fee hasn’t changed for a number of years and when the HST did come into effect last April 1, Health P.E.I. didn’t pass on the nine per cent extra cost onto the GST. It simply remitted extra money to Ottawa and absorbed the $50,000 loss.
Parking fees result in revenue of $350,000 to $400,000 a year at the QEH and should Ottawa follow through on its promise it would just restore to P.E.I. health services some of what was lost since last April.
The bottom line is this: Parking fees won’t drop. Flaherty’s promise will mean a little extra cash for PE.I. health services and that will be a good thing.