Monday, August 8, 2022

Lethbridge receiving drug treatment court, beefed up ALERT team

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Lethbridge is going to be getting a little tougher on crime, thanks to the Alberta government.

Justice Minister Doug Schweitzer was in the city Monday (Mar. 2) to announce Lethbridge is receiving a drug treatment court, the first outside of Calgary and Edmonton.

The special court provides a pre-sentence alternative for drug-addicted offenders that integrates justice, health services and treatment.

“Southern Alberta has had the highest increase in methamphetamine use across the province since 2012-2013 and trafficking in hard drugs such as meth and heroin in Lethbridge is nearly six times the national average”, says Schweitzer. “Our government will be opening a drug treatment court in Lethbridge to help keep southern Albertans safe by ensuring those struggling with addiction have access to treatment to prevent the cycle of re-offence.”

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Along with that, Minister Schweitzer says southern Alberta will be getting four more officers to bolster the ranks of the Alberta Law Enforcement Response Team (ALERT) in the region. “We are also providing law enforcement in southern Alberta with the tools they need to disrupt and dismantle the organized crime groups that traffic and supply the illegal drugs that fuel addiction and take a terrible toll on our communities.”

The aim to help crack down on drug-related crime here in the city and around the area.

As mentioned, drug treatment courts help break the cycle of addiction-related crime by giving people who commit non-violent offences access to judicially supervised treatment and recovery. Treatment is supplemented by frequent drug testing, incentives, sanctions and social services support.

Assistant Chief Judge Derek Redman, who is based in Lethbridge, says the fundamental purpose of sentencing is to protect society and to contribute to respect for the law by imposing sanctions which include denouncing certain behaviour and deterring certain conduct. “It also includes assisting in the rehabilitation of offenders – particularly those whose offences are motivated by an addiction to drugs. A drug treatment court that serves Lethbridge and area will assist in achieving these objectives and is a welcome addition to the courts of this region.”

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Drug treatment courts have been operating in Edmonton since 2005 and Calgary since 2007, and part of the $20 million in additional funding.

As for the ALERT, the four new officers will be added to an existing team of nine investigators based in Lethbridge.

This move will expand ALERT’s geographic reach in rural areas. Supt. Dwayne Lakusta, chief executive officer, Alberta Law Enforcement Response Team says the added resources and enhancement of its ALERT team in Lethbridge will create more opportunities for collaboration, intelligence-sharing, and provide a more versatile response to serious and organized crime in the region.

The four new positions in Lethbridge will be filled by two members from the Blood Tribe Police Service, one from the Taber Police Service and one from the RCMP.

(With files from Government of Alberta release)

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