COVID-19 might be responsible for a significant decrease in drug seizures at the B.C. border, according to data from the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA).
CBSA made only 140 drug seizures in June 2020, an 83% decrease from the same month last year. In 2019, during the same time period, CBSA made 837 drug seizures at the B.C. border.
Cpl. Daniel Michaud, a spokesperson with the RCMP’s federal serious and organized crime section, said it was “too early to identify broad drug market changes. While we don’t have any statistical data, it would seem reasonable the closure of borders to non-essential travel, and the decline in world trade, has had an impact on the supply chains and drug trafficking patterns and routes."
In April 2019, CBSA made 805 seizures. During April 2020, the agency made only 104 seizures (an 87% decrease). In May 2019, CBSA made 482 drug seizures. In May 2020, the number of seizures dropped to 131 (a 73% decrease in seizures).
In response to the coronavirus pandemic, the Canadian government restricted border crossings to essential travel only. This month, the government announced an extension of the restriction through September 21, 2020.
“[Organized crime groups] may (be) seeking alternative means of transportation, trafficking, and concealment to import drugs or to methods of obtaining pre-cursors to produce drugs domestically," Michaud said. The majority of the drugs seized at the border were personal use amounts. However, organized crime groups are responsible for the majority of the larger shipments of drugs crossing the border.
“[Organized crime groups] have shown their ability to change their modus operandi to suit changing environments,” he said. “They may (be) seeking alternative means of transportation, trafficking, and concealment to import drugs or to methods of obtaining pre-cursors to produce drugs domestically.”
CBSA is aware that some drug users have turned to the darkweb to purchase drugs. “We do have a federal investigative team dealing with darkweb-based illicit contraband,” he said. The majority of the seizures in April, May, and June were postal seizures, according to the data provided by CBSA.