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White Team takes fresh approach to powder in Nanaimo

Nanaimo Mounties unleashed the newly formed White Team on drug dealers who trade specifically in powdered drugs.

The team is a specialized enforcement unit created to tackle the distribution and sale of heroin, cocaine, crack cocaine and crystal methamphetamine in Nanaimo.

It made its debut Wednesday at about 7:30 p.m. when team members netted several ounces of cocaine, plus stolen wallets and identification, along with two suspects at an apartment in the 400 block of Third Street.

Const. Gary O'Brien, Nanaimo RCMP spokesman, said one wallet was stolen from the Nanaimo Aquatic Centre Nov. 3 and other wallets and pieces of stolen identification were taken during vehicle break-ins over the past several months.

Reginald Butler, 27, and a 25-year-old woman were arrested for possession for the purpose of trafficking and possession of stolen property.

Butler was held in custody following a bail hearing in Nanaimo provincial court Thursday.

The female suspect was released on a promise to appear in Nanaimo provincial court Feb. 21.

"The White Team was created to deal with street level drug dealers in Nanaimo who are actively involved in the drug culture," O'Brien said.

The winter months tend to be less busy, freeing members from the regular duties for special projects such as the White Team, which will augment the capabilities of the municipal drug squad.

The team is made up of six general duty, traffic and plain clothes officers who are led by two senior members.

"They will develop skills in surveillance, cultivate criminal informants and write search warrants," O'Brien said. "It's the same mandate as the Green Team, except the Green Team targets marijuana grow ops."

Projects like this offer opportunities for members to develop new skills and versatility as police officers, O'Brien said. It was a traffic member who wrote the warrant for Wednesday's search.

The White Team is designed to be effective against a large number of suspects over a short period of time, unlike the municipal drug squad, which focuses on more extensive investigations that can last several months.

"This will, on a daily basis, target different individuals," O'Brien said. "They're not long-term investigations. We're filling in a void that hasn't been targeted."

O'Brien said there needs to be a focus placed on powdered drugs, which are an issue in every community.

Drug-related crime works its way through communities in waves as new drugs come on the market. Cocaine, crack cocaine and heroin have long been staples of the drug trade along with ecstasy. More recent drugs, such as crystal methamphetamine, which O'Brien said is the current drug of choice in Nanaimo, are particularly dangerous.

"They're cheap, they're highly addictive and they're devastating," he said.

The team has a list of dozens of suspects it plans to target aggressively over the next several months until it disbands, the team members return to their regular units and the detachment reviews the team's performance and effectiveness.

"If it's deemed that it was a success then they'll look at reactivating it at another time when members can again be drawn in," O'Brien said.

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