At a press conference touting a recent multi-million-dollar drug bust Wednesday, Insp. Max Waddell of the Winnipeg Police Service organized crime division said COVID-19 has led to a 20 per cent spike in the price of cocaine and a 100 per cent jump in the price of meth.
“This all relates to the cycle of supply and demand,” said Waddell, explaining the rise in prices can likely be traced back to the extra costs of doing business facing Mexican drug cartels.
“They’re currently challenged right now. A lot of the precursors that they have to obtain to manufacture is being restricted due to the pandemic across the world.
“Therefore you’re seeing these increases around the cycle of supply and demand.”
Waddell said closures at international borders through are also likely playing a role in the higher prices
It means a kilo of meth, which, before being broken down and sold on the street, used to sell for $10,000 in Winnipeg, now sells for $20,000, said Waddell.
The base price for a kilo of cocaine before being sold on the street has also spiked from $60,000 to $72,000 a kilo, he added.
And while prices may be up, Waddell said police aren’t seeing a decrease in demand from users.
“The pressures of the pandemic are probably also impacting the addiction cycle,” he said.
“Addictions is so very powerful that we have not seen any decrease in the amount of illicit drugs that are getting into the hands of those who are a) trafficking it, and b) using it.
“All we’re really seeing is the increase of pricing in it, because more people being at home, et cetera, are wanting it and needing it.”
Multi-million-dollar drug bust
Waddell discussed the evolving cost of drugs as police revealed details of a months-long investigation that resulted in two arrests and the seizure of more than $2 million worth of meth and cocaine.
The guns and gangs unit investigation started in early 2020, police say, and ended April 16 when officers raided an apartment in the 2200 block of Pembina Highway and an apartment in the South Pointe area.
Inside the Pembina Highway apartment, police say officers found nine kilos of meth with an estimated street value of $1.8 million, four kilos of cocaine worth $400,000 on the street, and 326 grams of ecstasy valued at $3,500, as well as a cutting agent, a ballistic vest, a money counter and nearly $6,000 in cash.
Two men police say are associated with the apartments were stopped in a vehicle on St. Mary’s Road and placed under arrest April 16.
James Daniel Perlett, 43, and Biniam Mengistu Fitur, 40, are each facing a list of drug-related charges.
Both men have been detained in custody.
The large seizure is not the first big drug bust Winnipeg police have made in recent months.
In March, police seized 19 kilograms of cocaine with a street value of more than $1.5 million when officers stopped two vehicles and arrested two men in Headingley.
Waddell said Wednesday that the pandemic may actually be making drug investigations easier for police.
“With less people being on the street, I can tell you in the last six weeks we’ve had some of the most significant busts we’ve had,” he said, specifically mentioning the March cocaine arrests.
“Just over a month ago we had another seizure of over 19 kilos of cocaine, so in some ways, it’s actually assisting us in identifying these individuals.”