SASKATOON -- Saskatoon Police Service (SPS) has seen a 44 per cent rise in possession and trafficking offences related to crystal meth so far in 2020 compared to last year.

Staff Sgt. Darren Pringle says meth addiction is also keeping many of his officers in his platoon busy creating more difficulties when arrests are made.

“The normal things you would do in terms of applying force aren’t very effective. (Suspects who are on meth) have lots of energy, they may or may not be in a bit of a psychologically altered state and it takes a little more work to get these people into custody,” he said.

He also says meth is cheap, easy to come by and the effects of the drug last longer. When a person comes down from the drug, the person is hurting in multiple ways until they can get more of the drug, which ultimately leads to more property crimes like multiple vehicle break-ins.

“The crash from meth is particularly spectacular because when you come off the drug, there’s all these physiological factors that go along with it so on there is an incredible drive to replicate that high and make the hurt go away because the low is so very low and your body hurts.

“For $40 to $50 you can get a gram of meth, compared to $80 to $100 for a gram of (cocaine). You smash a couple car windows, you find some change and you can facilitate that high again for yourself very quickly. That’s what’s driving up the property crime,” Pringle said.

According to an SPS report, as of July 6 there were 57 meth possession and four meth trafficking occurrences, up from 35 possession and four trafficking arrests at the same time last year.

Overall for 2020 police said there have been a total of 290 possession and trafficking incidents compared to 201 over the same period in 2019. This follows the record number of 80 meth offences in May 2020.

The number of occurrences related to crystal meth have steadily increased month-to-month over the course of 2020.

In February, police reported 32 possession and trafficking offences. That number increased to 37 in March, 45 in April, up to 80 in May and 61 in June.

Since 2012 the number of meth possession and trafficking occurrences has increased more than 25 times from 19 occurrences in 2012 to 477 occurrences in 2019, according to SPS statistics.

Kayla Demong, the associate director with AIDS Saskatoon, says it has been dealing with a meth epidemic for the last five years, leading to a strain on its services.

“We’re seeing definitely an increase in people in drug-induced psychosis. Across all of our programs, we’re seeing people with far more complex mental health needs and a lack of resources for them to access. We need all sectors to come together and look at this from a community perspective. It’s not just enforcement, it’s not just treatment, and it’s not just harm reduction. We need initiatives that look at all aspects of what people are going through and are able to respond in a holistic way to support them,” said Demong.

AIDS Saskatoon says the hugest gap for people living with meth addiction in Saskatoon right now is access to mental health care and services that are equipped and can work with people who are in psychosis and experiencing a heightened state.

Colleen Christopherson-Cote with Safe Community Action Alliance recently helped release 27 core strategic actions to assist in the meth epidemic in Saskatoon. She agrees in having all levels of government to focus on creating a facility in Saskatoon - specifically for meth use.

“Many of the treatment facilities that are addressing substance use look at an-alcohol based treatment facility so looking at crystal meth and the things that are very specific to that drug addiction will be a critical piece moving forward,” said Christopherson-Cote.

Christopherson-Cote says in Saskatoon people who are more vulnerable and marginalized are more likely targeted in getting access to meth. She also points to Canada’s history in relation to the reasons why meth addiction is so high.

“In this province and Canada in general has a deep rooted history of colonization and trauma so those are the root factors that drive people towards substance use. Its mental health, addictions, trauma and colonial heritage. Indigenous people make up easily 80 to 90 per cent of the homelessness and meth addiction. We need to start talking about dismantling and disrupting colonial systems that are creating and perpetuating cycles of poverty, substance use and trauma,” said Christopherson-Cote.

Both Demong and Christopherson-Cote said COVID-19 and the provincial and federal government’s response to the virus has shown what people can do when they come together in a timely manner. They would like to see the same level of response and action with meth addiction.

“We need to treat this as a public health crisis. We need to treat poverty, substance use and trauma as a public health crisis. People are dying by many of those social determinants of health,” said Christopherson-Cote.

“We have an HIV epidemic, a crystal meth epidemic and now we’re seeing an overdose epidemic in our province and the response to those things is not getting the full support from the government as it should be. What we learned from COVID-19 is, if we can work efficiently and effectively and quickly, people can get help really fast and things can get put into place really fast and all the red tape isn’t really necessary,” said Demong.