2020 was a challenging year for Chatham-Kent police

Chatham-Kent police headquarters (Photo by Allanah Wills)

Chatham-Kent police are seizing an increasing amount of drugs and guns every year, according to a 2020 year end police report.

Katie Eagen, who is responsible for processing and managing the drugs and cash seized by officers along with security, storage and disposal of the drugs, said drugs were seized 593 times in 2020 — double the norm.

“Gradually over the years we’ve seen the drug exhibits increase in number, the amount of drug submissions. Last year we’ve seen the most increase in submissions that I’ve ever noticed, almost double but that’s same across the province,” said Eagen.

She said there are so many drugs being analyzed before court that the lab is further behind than they’ve ever been returning the evidence with certificates of analysis to lay charges. A report that went before the police services board on Tuesday showed that half of the seizures were methamphetamine and Fentanyl followed by marijuana and cocaine.

Police services board members also heard the number of firearms, weapons, and ammunition processed by Chatham-Kent police in 2020 jumped dramatically from the previous two years.

Staff Sergeant Jason Chickowski told the board that 513 exhibits were processed last year, compared to 369 exhibits in 2019 and 381 exhibits in 2018. Chickowski cited several reasons for the increase.

“There appears to be more seizures as front line officers have faster access to information when conducting investigations,” said Chickowski. “There also seems to be a trend of more gun crime across the entire country.”

Police said 117 pellet and BB rifles, pistols, and replica firearms were processed along with 170 legal rifles and shotguns and 24 illegal handguns. Eight bows and crossbows were also processed along with lots of ammunition, and 29 knives, prohibited devices and weapons, such as tasers, pepper spray, and brass knuckles.

Police added in total 267 pounds of ammunition was destroyed along with 91 canisters of pepper spray, 199 rifles and swords, and 211 handguns and knives.

The board also heard that 2020 was a “particularly challenging year” for the police court services section due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The courts switched from in-person appearances to virtual appearances, meaning fewer prisoner transports but a bigger backlog that created more paperwork and a heavier workload for police.