Tackling drink tampering

Nova Scotia's police chiefs are shining a spotlight on drink tampering, after several high-profile cases of suspected druggings in downtown Halifax.

At a meeting this fall, members of the Nova Scotia Chiefs of Police Association agreed to make the issue a priority, focusing on community education and prevention.

They are also calling on people who believe they have been victimized to report it.

"If you think it has happened, then you need to go to the police," said Halifax RCMP Chief Supt. Lee Bergerman, chairwoman of the association's drug committee, who has sent a letter to community organizations across the province about drink tampering.

Although she said an analysis of police data did not reveal a widespread problem with spiked drinks, she said that shouldn't be interpreted as "minimizing the seriousness of this issue."

"We felt we could play a role in highlighting the need for increased reporting of such incidents as well as enhanced overall awareness of this issue," Bergerman said in the Nov. 1 letter sent to 10 community groups.

She said police would like the organizations to help raise awareness about drink tampering and encourage possible victims to come forward.

Bergerman said increased awareness and education "can be part of the solution in reducing additional victimization."

The move comes after multiple women said they had been slipped unidentified substances at Halifax bars.

Despite the apparent rash of incidents reported in the media, a Canadian Press request under the Freedom of Information Act revealed that police don't track drink tampering and were unable to provide statistics on reported incidents.

Bergerman said police can't establish a new database category when stats do not warrant it.

"We do not have the ability or quantitative rationale at this time to add a new data category for this issue," she said in the letter.

In an interview, Bergerman added that crime analysts comb through reports looking for possible trends, and if there were a spike in reports of drink tamperings it would be noticed — and possibly merit a new data field.

She said part of the problem may be that people are sharing their experience on social media but not reporting suspected drink tampering incidents to police.

"If it's happening, it's not being reported to us," she said.

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