By Trevor Busch
The Taber Police Service has witnessed an escalation in drug use among school-aged youth in the community in recent years, and strategies being utilized to help address the problem have been outlined for the Taber Municipal Police Commission (TMPC).
“I was approached by somebody in Taber asking about if it was true there is drugs consumed at middle-school age in the community,” said Comm. Wanda Renner at the TMPC’s Sept. 11 meeting.
Chief Graham Abela acknowledged this type of situation is on the rise in the Town of Taber, and the police service is taking steps to help mitigate the issue.
“We definitely have seen an increase in the amount of drug activity that’s occurring within middle school and high-school-aged individuals. We’re currently taking investigational steps — that I don’t want to talk about here necessarily — to try to engage that population through enforcement. But I can tell you, we’re concerned about it.”
Abela highlighted a number of avenues where drug abuse sufferers can seek out the help they need to address their addictions problems.
“We have a lot of supports in place in our community for people that are suffering from drug use and abuse. Not only is our police service open 24-7-365 to help those coming to our counter that suffer from drug use and abuse, but when we’ve had people come to our door before, where we’ve reached out a hand, and absolutely through our values of compassion and caring and empathy, we’re more than willing to help those that want some help. We also have groups that we partner with in our community policing model that absolutely assist with both the drug user, as well as the families that are impacted through the drug use.”
“So we partner very closely with a group called TCAD, Taber Community Against Drugs, that is a grassroots group of individuals that help those suffering from drug use and abuse in many different ways.”
On a more positive note, Abela illustrated TCAD has seen a recent outpouring of support and volunteerism on the heels of reported drug issues making inroads into the community.
“Within that group, which is expanding currently— which is a bit of a sign as to what is going on — we have individuals who have had family members that have been affected by drug use and abuse. Just that peer support can be a very good means of learning for parents that maybe worry. We also have TCAPS, Taber Community Action and Prevention Society.”
Adult and youth counselors are available to be accessed in the community, and local school divisions have their own programs.
“The schools also have a very effective counseling program which is well supported by the school divisions,” said Abela. “We have our school resource officer program. So there’s lots of help there. There’s also the enforcement side.”
The door of the Taber Police Service will never be closed to individuals seeking assistance with these kinds of problems, concluded Abela.
“We’re here to talk to parents, or anyone, who wants to learn about the signs of drug use, what are the symptoms associated with drug use, what drugs look like, what they smell like, what the paraphernalia around it looks like, how to report a drug house, how to stop or help police with interdicting in these types of drug activity. It really impacts the community.”
Abela asked Renner to reach back out to the individual that approached her to discuss some of the options that might be available for help, or to assist.
“I think it’s important for any of us as we’re talking to people, if there are questions, to give that feedback back,” said TMPC Chair Ken Holst. “I think that awareness is huge.”
Low attendance in the recent past at meetings of TCAPS and TCAD have seen an abrupt about-face in late 2019, with membership up and more people looking to get involved.
“We could use a lot more help there at both of those levels,” said Holst, who also serves as president of TCAPS.
New directions at D.A. Ferguson Middle School are making strides in addressing potential drug problems.
“D.A. Ferguson has a lot of new administrative staff there, and there’s a lot of momentum going on there that I think will try to help with some of this at that age group, and to understand the tenderness of that age group, and the influential-ness that these kids go through,” said Holst. “Nothing against the previous staff there, but the new staff is really generating a lot of excitement.”
TCAPS is hosting their Vegas Night fundraiser on Dec. 7.