Despite cocaine bust, drug market resilient

Illicit drugs will continue flowing into the Yukon no matter how many local drug dealers law enforcement rounds up, said the RCMP. In December, police arrested seven suspected cocaine dealers in Operation Miner. The immediate...

Illicit drugs will continue flowing into the Yukon no matter how many local drug dealers law enforcement rounds up, said the RCMP.

In December, police arrested seven suspected cocaine dealers in Operation Miner. The immediate effect on the downtown Whitehorse drug scene was significant, they say. But as long as national and international drug organizations keep growing and local addictions persist, illicit drugs won’t be rooted out.

“(Operation Miner) was not an operation directed at the upper levels of distribution,” said Sergeant Blake Wawryk, the director of the RCMP’s drug division in the Yukon.

“It was an operation directed at the very base level of cocaine trafficking in our town. (It was directed at) the downtown bars and streets where individual rocks of cocaine are sold,” he said.

The illicit drug market in the Yukon is “resilient” and will grow back, he said.

“I have no false impressions that there will be people who are going to step up and take their place. But it takes some time to get structured. It takes some time for (local dealers) to make connections with the upper levels.”

The drug market rebuilds itself in an organic way without one group directing the growth, he said.

“The upper levels of the cocaine distributors, they run their show very much like a business,” said Wawryk. “They look for good area managers, they look for store managers.

“So they observe the drug trafficking scene much like we do. They select and recruit high-level producers, people that can conduct business.”

The big guys scope the scene while a new crop of local dealers try to make headway from the ground up.

“At the bottom, a large part of the cocaine traffickers start out as the kind of trafficker that was targeted in Operation Miner, the street-level trafficker,” he said. “If that person goes undetected and untouched by law enforcement, they develop stronger ties leading up the food chain. Over time, they can rise very high.”

It’s a mutual existence that supplies local addictions and global crime.

“The bottom grows upward and the top looks for good employees downward,” said Wawryk.

Cocaine will be in the Yukon “probably forever” and local RCMP aren’t trying to end it completely, he said. Instead, the job of drug investigators is to bring as much “accountability” to the dealers as possible.

It’s a heavy reminder for those involved that dealing is illegal, that drugs are harmful to communities and that the dealing is a high-risk venture.

A large percentage of those busted in Operation Miner had been arrested or convicted of cocaine trafficking before, he said. These “prolific offenders” keep working despite the risks.

And it’s getting harder to measure the impact of organized crime from Outside because it just keeps growing.

“There’s the bogeyman of organized crime, the proliferation of groups beyond that which were there years ago,” he said. “You can’t even keep track of the names out there, all the groups and gangs.”

There are at least 900 different criminal organizations operating in Canada, according to the 2008 Criminal Intelligence Service’s Annual Report. British Columbia is considered a major illicit drug hub and most of the Yukon’s drugs arrive through that province, said Wawryk.

The RCMP’s Combined Forces and Enforcement Unit operates out of Vancouver to tackle organized crime in British Columbia. The unit didn’t comment on any current work being done toward Yukon-directed organized crime by press time.

Closer to home, the RCMP can raise the price of drugs by busting dealers and by trying to keep local dealers from climbing the ladder.

“In the criminal community, the impact of those seven arrests is significant,” said Wawryk. “People took notice. Drug traffickers and users took notice.”

Contact James Munson at

jamesm@yukon-news.com.

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