Abbotsford police chief wants harsh charges for dealers selling deadly drugs

APD chief Bob Rich exploring ways to charge drug traffickers whose customers die with serious criminal offences.

Abbotsford Police Chief Bob Rich

Abbotsford Police Chief Bob Rich

Abbotsford Police Chief Bob Rich wants to find a way to bring the full weight of the law down on opioid dealers whose customers overdose and die.

Rich told Abbotsford council Monday that he had penned a letter to drug dealers warning them that they could be charged with extremely serious crimes if their customers suffer fatal overdoses.

But Rich said that Crown counsel thought the letter, as written, was not a good idea. Nevertheless, Rich said he’s still looking at ways to deter drug dealers with the threat of charges beyond simply trafficking and was considering modifying the letter for distribution.

Rich noted that fentanyl is easy to purchase in bulk over the internet and extremely profitable when sold in smaller quantities. It’s also frequently mixed with other narcotics. The only drug it hasn’t been detected with, he said, is marijuana.

The Abbotsford Police Department also plans to issue 24 kits of naloxone spray to officers this week. Naloxone reverses the symptoms of opioid overdose, and the spray application has recently been approved for use in Canada. The naloxone kit can be used if officers encounter someone who is overdosing, or in case of inadvertent consumption by officers handling drugs in the field. All officers will eventually get the kits.

Rich noted that the province is also issuing new guidelines that will see police officers not attend the scene of overdoses except in cases where paramedics fear for their lives. The idea is that the order will increase the willingness of drug users to call 911.

While council heard from a range of voices on harm-reduction issues and the current opioid overdose crisis, the creation of a safe injection site in the region was only briefly discussed.

Fraser Health medical health officer Andrew Larder said the province expected to see at least one safe injection site created in each health region.

Rich also briefly touched on the subject, noting: “Good or bad, the one thing that has never happened in a safe injection site in Vancouver is nobody has ever died.”

The News has filed freedom of information requests seeking records of communication between Fraser Health and the City of Abbotsford regarding the creation of the site, but requests to both public bodies yielded no documents.