Elite policing units putting a dent in province’s surging crime

Amidst a surge in criminal activity across Saskatchewan, specialized law enforcement units are stepping up to tackle the challenge.

Consisting of highly-trained officers, the Crime Reduction Team (CRT), Trafficking Response Teams (STRT), and the RCMP Warrant Enforcement and Suppression Team (WEST), have made significant strides to curb the escalating crime rates.

he elite municipal and RCMP CRTs, STRT, and RCMP WEST units collectively operate as part of the RCMP’s Saskatchewan Enforcement Response (SERT). Pictured here is one of the vehicles from the North Battleford RCMP CRT.Courtesy Battlefords RCMP CRT

“Because of these teams, there are fewer drugs, guns and criminals in our communities,” said Corrections, Policing and Public Safety Minister Paul Merriman in a media release Monday.

“We are proud to invest in, and be grateful for, the work of these units, whose tremendous efforts continue to make our communities safer.”

The elite CRT, STRT, and WEST units collectively operate as part of the RCMP’s Saskatchewan Enforcement Response (SERT), and assist frontline officers.

“Our hardworking, frontline RCMP detachment police officers do a fantastic job upholding community safety every day,” said Saskatchewan RCMP Commanding Officer Rhonda Blackmore. ​”When the need arises, our specialized units are available to seamlessly work and integrate with detachments – anywhere in the province – given the officers in these units also have detachment experience.​ 

“SERT is one of those specialized RCMP units. We have police officers that are provincial – even national – experts in their respective investigative fields,” added Blackmore. “We have seen time and time again that together, SERT and detachments remove safety risks like dangerous drugs, wanted people and weapons from our communities.”

From August through November of 2023, RCMP’s WEST, CRT and STRT units seized more than 840 grams of methamphetamine, 670 grams of cocaine and 50 grams of fentanyl, as well as 46 firearms.

CRTs target street gangs and prolific offenders

There are 10 CRT teams in Saskatchewan, Ariane Whiting, Senior Media Relations Consultant, Government of Saskatchewan, told SaskToday.ca in an email on Monday.

Three CRT teams are municipal and are with Prince Albert Police Service, Regina Police Service, and Saskatoon Police Service.

Seven CRTs are with RCMP Detachments at La Ronge, Prince Albert, Meadow Lake, Moose Jaw, North Battleford, the Battlefords Region, and Lloydminster.

CRTs target street gangs and prolific offenders while responding to urban and rural crime surges as needed. 

“The Saskatoon Crime Reduction Team is a collaboration with the Province of Saskatchewan that is vital to seizing firearms, criminal proceeds, and illicit drugs in Saskatoon,” said Saskatoon Police Chief Dave Haye. “This commitment to community safety helps to ensure criminals don’t benefit from illegal activity, while reducing victimization and making our city a more safe and secure place to live.”

From September to December 2023, the municipal CRT and STRT teams seized more than 5,400 grams of methamphetamine, 1,300 grams of cocaine, 1,600 grams of fentanyl, 42 firearms and over $57,000 in cash. Additionally, together they executed 44 search warrants and laid 203 Criminal Code and Controlled Drugs and Substances Act charges. 

From August to November 2023, CRT units executed 47 search warrants, 137 arrest warrants, and made 184 arrests.

In January, the Saskatoon Police Service CRT, with help from their Tactical Support Unit and patrol officers, wrapped up a drug investigation they had started in the fall of 2023 and arrested three people. They seized 112 grams of cocaine, 6.6 grams of meth, $2,080 cash, an expandable baton, a prohibited knife, body armour, a 2012 Volkswagen Jetta, and a 2008 Lexus ES350.

STRT investigates drug, weapon and human trafficking

The specialized intelligence-led enforcement STRT teams conduct drug, weapon, and human trafficking investigations. They operate from Prince Albert, Saskatoon and Regina.

From August through November of 2023, STRT laid 16 Criminal Code and Controlled Drugs and Substances Act charges, executed 41 search warrants and seized 247.12 grams of methamphetamine, 203.6 grams of cocaine and 46.6 grams of fentanyl.

From September to December 2023, municipal STRT’s opened 28 files and initiated 61 human trafficking interventions.  

“We have been working hard since the inception of our unit to educate frontline officers about the indicators of human trafficking,” said Regina STRT Unit Sergeant Cornelia Seiferling.

“That education is resulting in more calls from them to us to investigate further when there is suspicion that someone is being trafficked. Having someone admit to being trafficked, and cooperating in an investigation, can be a challenge. We deal with vulnerable individuals who often have experienced trauma and it takes time to build relationships and trust. Having officers dedicated to STRT means we can go that extra distance to get them out of the situation they are in and hold offenders accountable.”

In addition to investigative work, STRT members play a key role in educating the public on the realities of human trafficking in Saskatchewan. STRT investigators spend critical time with youth, community partners and other law enforcement groups to help create awareness and public understanding of the impact human trafficking has in our province.

WEST arrests gang members, dangerous and violent offenders

The RCMP operates one WEST team out of Prince Albert and another jointly between Saskatoon and Meadow Lake, each with the ability to respond province-wide. WEST targets high-profile offenders who represent a threat to public safety, such as gang members and violent offenders with outstanding warrants.

From August through November of 2023, WEST executed 14 search warrants, 19 arrest warrants and made 20 arrests.

Marshall’s Service in the works

The province invests in all of these elite policing services and is adding to Saskatchewan’s policing presence with the creation of the Saskatchewan Marshals Service (SMS) in 2026.

The SMS will consist of approximately 70 officers. The service will provide an additional law enforcement presence across Saskatchewan, conduct proactive investigations and support RCMP and municipal police operations. Their duties will include responding to areas with high crime rates, apprehending offenders with outstanding arrest warrants and investigating farming-related offences like theft and trespassing.

“The Saskatchewan Marshals Service will focus on provincial priorities such as gangs, illegal weapons and drugs, along with apprehending prolific, high-risk offenders and wanted individuals,” said Merriman. 

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