Cst. Paul Trahan went fishing last week and his catch was a little bigger than expected.
Trahan, a member of the North Bay Police Service’s School Liaison Unit was stationed outside a city high school waiting for a drug deal to go down.
The teenage trafficker he’d had his eye on showed up and sold some marijuana to a younger student.
That’s when Trahan made his move and arrested both of them.
But as the paperwork was being done up Trahan noticed a third student acting suspiciously.
“He was a trafficker who I knew about and while I was processing the first two kids this third guy just starts doing his thing,” said Trahan, during an interview at police headquarters.
“So within a 10-minute span there were three people in custody. It was a great day. We went fishing for one fish and ended up with three.”
Preoccupied with drugs
These are busy days for Trahan, a 15-year veteran with the city police.
So far this year he’s arrested 10 drug traffickers on or near school property.
Trahan, who’s been in the school liaison unit for the last 18 months, says substance use at the secondary school level has become so bad that students become “preoccupied” with drugs as opposed to their education.
“I mean the whole point of going to school is to get an education, learn about life, make friends, but when you throw drugs into the mix it affects them in many ways,” Trahan said.
“They’re distracted from their school work or getting high during their lunch hour, so their grades start to slip, and if you don’t graduate or have poor marks, how are you going to get a good job?”
What’s even worse are the consequences for dealers who have been caught and charged, Trahan said.
Trafficking-related laws have changed dramatically over the last four or five years.
A new section in the Controlled Drug and Substance Act states anyone caught selling drugs at or near a school or to people under 18 must automatically receive a jail sentence. Judges who don’t impose them must provide letters stating why they haven’t, Trahan said.
“So far 30 days in jail is the smallest sentence any of the traffickers I’ve charged this year has received,” Trahan said.
Consequences quite grave
Traffickers who are high school students also face expulsion from a board or, in a worst-case scenario, any school in the province.
“So the consequences of being charged are quite grave,” Trahan said.
Harder he works
Most of the traffickers Trahan has arrested or is investigating are between 16 and 18, and the buyers between 14 and 16, he said.
“There’s no specific age, though, and I’ve had dealers who were 14 and some who were 19,” Trahan said.
But the harder he works to book dealers, the more manageable his workload becomes, Trahan said.
“I figured it I dealt with the drug issue then maybe my calls for service would go down because the problem we had last year was a lot of male on male type fights which were mainly related to drug debts owed, or whatever,” Trahan said.
“It’s more work initially, but once it’s investigated and charges taken care of then calls would be minimal, and that’s been the affect.”
Drug trafficking has always been a problem in high schools, Trahan said, but he’s been trying to get the message out, that, to borrow from Eddy Murphy, there’s a new sheriff in town.
Back in October, Trahan said he had become “really aggressive” in his pursuit of high school traffickers.
“I had caught about three or four dealers at that time, and when I went to another high school the word there was that the North Bay Police Service had a drug enforcement team embedded in high schools doing enforcement,” Trahan said.
“I could make an arrest on Monday and by Tuesday three or four schools know somebody’s been pinched for drugs, it’s that fast, that rapid.”
Word means everything
While he does move against drug traffickers, Trahan also tries to prevent students from falling off the rails.
"I'm not here to put people in jail, I’m here to help them out, help them get their lives back in order," he said.
Trahan attributes his success rate to the rapport he’s built among students, some of whom provide him with critical information or names and places.
“The way I get along with the students and the trust I build with them is critical, and my word means everything,” Trahan said.
“If I go to school and I give them my word and then I turn around and lie about what I’ve done and gone some other way, my name is mud in any school, because in a school your name is everything, and if I’m badly labeled one then I’m done and my sources of information are done too.”