No stats on drink tam­per­ing

Cape Breton Post - - NEWS PROVINCE -

Halifax Re­gional Po­lice are be­ing crit­i­cized for not track­ing drink-tam­per­ing in­ci­dents in the city, amid mul­ti­ple re­ports of spiked drinks at down­town bars and an emer­gency room doc­tor who says it hap­pens reg­u­larly.

Two women came for­ward this spring af­ter they were al­legedly slipped an uniden­ti­fied sub­stance at a packed Halifax cabaret, prompt­ing sev­eral women to speak out about sim­i­lar ex­pe­ri­ences: Black­ing out af­ter only a few drinks, sleep­ing long stretches and re­call­ing noth­ing from the night be­fore.

Some women told The Cana­dian Press they were car­ried home by friends. Oth­ers awoke to un­fa­mil­iar sur­round­ings with no mem­ory of how they got there or what oc­curred.

As the num­ber of anec­do­tal cases in­volv­ing so-called date rape drugs rose, a po­lice spokesper­son said in April that drink tam­per­ing “is not some­thing that we hear of of­ten.’’

In fact, a Cana­dian Press re­quest un­der the Free­dom of In­for­ma­tion Act has re­vealed that Halifax po­lice don’t track drink tam­per­ing. Po­lice were un­able to pro­vide statis­tics on drink spik­ing “due to not hav­ing the field’’ to com­pile re­ported in­ci­dents, Insp. Don­ald Moser said in a let­ter.

Tal­ly­ing up re­ports of drink tam­per­ing would re­quire po­lice to “read through in­di­vid­u­ally’’ thou­sands of files, which could cost thou­sands of dol­lars, he said.

In a re­cent email, spokesper­son Const. Carol McIsaac said she con­sulted the force’s watch com­man­ders and mem­bers of the sex­ual as­sault in­ves­ti­ga­tion team, liquor en­force­ment unit and crime an­a­lyst unit be­fore say­ing drink tam­per­ing was un­com­mon.

But she con­firmed: “We do not have de­tailed data on the spe­cific is­sue.’’

The po­lice re­sponse is be­ing crit­i­cized by data man­age­ment ex­perts, who say any sus­pected crime re­ported to po­lice should be tracked.

It also ap­pears the po­lice as­ser­tion that drink tam­per­ing is un­com­mon is out of step with the ex­pe­ri­ence of some front-line hos­pi­tal staff in Halifax.

“It wor­ries me very much,’’ said Dr. Sam Camp­bell, the chief of emer­gency at the QEII Health Sciences Cen­tre Halifax In­fir­mary. “I have the feel­ing it’s hap­pen­ing a lot, be­cause many women say they hes­i­tate to come to the hos­pi­tal at all and even fewer would want to re­port it to po­lice.’’

Paige Fitz­patrick, who along with Brit­tany Bernard shared her ex­pe­ri­ence of a sus­pected drink tam­per­ing in­ci­dent in April, called it a shame that po­lice don’t keep statis­tics on drink tam­per­ing in­ci­dents.

The story of the young women, ac­com­pa­nied by pho­tos of them re­cov­er­ing in hos­pi­tal, was shared thou­sands of times on Facebook. They re­ported the al­leged crime to po­lice — al­though it now ap­pears their ex­pe­ri­ence won’t be in­cluded in statis­tics.

“It does in­deed seem prob­lem­atic for the po­lice to make claims about the rel­a­tive rar­ity of a par­tic­u­lar crime with­out hav­ing data at hand to sup­port those claims,’’ said Ryan Whalen, an ad­junct pro­fes­sor at Dal­housie Uni­ver­sity’s School of In­for­ma­tion Man­age­ment.

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