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 spokeswoman 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, spokeswoman 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.
“All of this is very overwhelming for Brittany and I and we are still trying to move past what happened,” she said in an email.
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.
“In situations like this, citizens have very little insight into the issue and can only really turn to the police or the rumour mill to get …read more