North Bay Police Constable Brad Reaume says the city is merely in the “beginning stages,” of a crisis that is “coming significantly fast.”

Reaume has spent eight years working out of the Street Crime office and has taken the lead as the spokesperson for the four-member department on all things drug-related and the effect drugs have on our community.

In his time with NBPS, he has become an authority on street-level drug culture, and his role in the community is one he says he enjoys. “I enjoy helping people out and educating people,” Reaume adds.

The crucial aspect of this community engagement, Reaume says is “making people aware of what’s happening in our community.”

Asked more specifically what he means by that statement, he replies matter-of-factly, “I don’t think it’s a secret that we are on the verge of the opioid epidemic sweeping through Canada,” adding, “our mortality rates are increasing, the calls related to fentanyl overdoses are increasing, North Bay paramedics report a 500 per cent increase of suspected opiate overdoses,” in one year.

Next Thursday, Reaume will take part in a forum hosted by the Community Drug Strategy North Bay & Area. He says the police will be presenting alongside a sub-committee of the Community Drug Strategy targeting a stigma reduction campaign on speaking out about observed behaviour.

In lay terms? Community partners, especially police, need citizens to come forward with information about drug trafficking and dealing. “The idea is to empower people to speak out about the things they see,” says Reaume, “and no longer fear terms such as ‘tattle-taling,’ ‘snitches,’ and ‘rats.'”

Reaume says there is a culture, ingrained in the drug community, against speaking to authorities. “There is a stigma that surrounds that conversation,” says Reaume, “this effort is to reduce that stigma.”

He says, ideally, the public would treat reporting drug crimes the same way it does suspected impaired drivers. Reaume says the crucial difference in reporting a drug crime is the stigma and the hesitance to give contact information with a statement. “People want to remain anonymous because of the fear and the stigma of telling on those type of people.”

Summing up the challenge faced by police, Reaume shares he has investigated “about 1,500 drug offences in eight years in North Bay and taken only one statement.”