Red Deer will get a drug treatment court, and reinforcements are coming for police tackling drug traffickers, Alberta’s justice minister announced Thursday.
The city will have one of five drug treatment courts outside of Edmonton and Calgary as part of the government’s $20-million investment over four years to expand the system. A similar court was announced for Lethbridge in March and others are planned for yet-announced locations.
As well, Red Deer’s 15-strong Alberta Law Enforcement Response Teams will be boosted by three new officers as part of a $50-million initiative to target organized crime, said Justice Minister Doug Schweitzer in Red Deer.
Schweitzer, who volunteered for 10 years with drug courts, said they allow those struggling with addiction to recover through a court-supervised process.
Drug treatment courts have been operating in Calgary and Edmonton since 2005, “and the results have been amazing,” said Schweitzer in a news conference on the steps of City Hall.
“We heard that last year in our town halls that we held across Alberta, that people want to know that we’re compassionate. They want to know that we’re dealing with these issues head on.
“We’ve heard loud and clear from our mid-sized cities that they want us to tackle addictions,” said Schweitzer.
“They want to ensure that people have the ability to recover, so that their communities feel safe again and people know there’s hope for the future.”
Jason Luan, associate minister of mental health and addictions, said the combination of drug treatment courts and boosting law enforcement efforts balances compassion with holding people to account.
“Fair, firm and compassionate is the spirit of it.”
Red Deer Mayor Tara Veer welcomed the introduction of drug courts to the city and said it will “provide people with the opportunity to help break the systemic cycles of addictions and crime.
“It’s a much-needed alternative legal mechanism,” said the mayor, who hoped it would also help ease court backlogs.
“With the addition of drug treatment court, there is no doubt we are a safer community.”
Veer was also pleased to see the additional ALERT help.
“The city has been a partner in ALERT for many years and we’ve seen great results from that program.”
Red Deer assistant chief Judge Jim Hunter is a strong supporter of the drug treatment court system, which could be up and running by the end of the year in Red Deer.
The courts have few tools to help those struggling with addictions, he said.
“Drug treatment courts offer an effective and constructive way for the courts to work on rehabilitation of people, in conjunction with community groups and health-care professionals, and offer hope to people and their families.”
ALERT chief executive officer Supt. Dwayne Lakusta said the three new officers, who will come from the RCMP and Lacombe Police Service, will make a difference.
“We’re going to be able to create additional teams that are going to be dedicated to drugs and organized crime and the violence associated with it,” said Lakusta.
“Simply put, moving forward, we’re going to be relentless with our efforts. Relentless with our efforts to disrupt and dismantle organized crime and those who continue to exploit the people and the citizens of Red Deer, and we’re going to have an impact on that.”
Other regional organized crime units across the province are also getting a boost through the new government funding.