Members of the Sarnia Police Service held a special media conference Wednesday in the wake of the disturbing discovery of never-before-seen fentanyl disguised as candy-like caricatures last week.
“To my knowledge we have not seen anything like this, anywhere in the province,” Det.Sgt. Mike Howell told reporters, stressing a notable concern for children and youth who live in homes where drug addiction is prevalent.
“Someone could ingest that, seeing it around their household, thinking nothing of it,” he added. “And unfortunately, that could have fatal consequences… one of these would be enough to put you into respiratory failure.
“We want the message to go out because unfortunately, it could have devastating effects for people in our community if they unknowingly ingest that.”
The drugs, molded into shapes including a house and teddy bear, were seized as part of a weeks-long investigation that resulted in the discovery of nearly $74,000 worth of drugs and cash at a pair of Sarnia homes, Oct. 12.
Measuring approximately 3 cm by 2 cm in size, the fentanyl could easily be mistaken for a chocolate, candy or edible, Howell noted, adding that parents should be vigilant — but not panicked — as Halloween approaches.
“I don’t think anybody is going to be handing these our for Halloween, so I want to put that out there and say that would be extremely unlikely that would happen,” he said. “For parents, they need to check their kids’ candy, be vigilant, and know that, unfortunately, this stuff exists in our community.”
Four Sarnia men, ranging in age from 36 to 65, were arrested and face drug-related charges as a result of the investigation, which also included the seizure of large amounts of cocaine and crystal methamphetamine.
“The other component of course, is, we do hope that when people are charged or convicted of these types of offences, that there are court imposed sanctions that can help us better prevent these things form happening in the future,” Sarnia Police Chief Derek Davis noted.
Residents and community leaders have been calling for more action to address what’s been called a ‘catch and release’ crisis in Sarnia. A recent police report found 70% of arrests made over a three-month period were of individuals already bound by a judicial release from a previous arrest.
Last year, Coun. Bill Dennis sparked a debate at City Hall after raising the issue of 'catch and release' or, the repeated arrests of the same offenders, and its impact on residents frustrated by brazen and repeat petty crimes.
Councillors later voted 8-1 to urge Ontario for take action on repeat offenders, and to share their concerns with the federal government, Sarnia Police, and the Association of Municipalities of Ontario.
"From our perspective, if someone is on a release and has a history… if there are conditions in place that can help us enforce some of those conditions — that can prevent offences, prevent more victims, prevent more of the same activity,” Davis said. “Those would be helpful.”