Six people from Barrie, one person from Springwater Township and another from Toronto were among those arrested following a months-long investigation into cocaine and heroin trafficking in the area.
The multi-jurisdictional investigation, which began in Barrie last December, was aimed at disrupting the flow of illegal drugs into the community. It was conducted by city police and Ontario Provincial Police, with assistance from the Toronto Police Service's Asian Organized Crime Task Force.
The probe concluded in the last several days with the execution of 10 search warrants, the "vast majority" of which occurred here in the city where the investigation was "primarily focused," said Barrie police corporate communications co-ordinator Peter Leon.
A search warrant was also executed in northern Simcoe County and another at a second location in the county, he said.
The investigation focused on the trafficking of cocaine and heroin taking place between the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) and Simcoe County. Local distribution then occurred using dealers who operated in communities throughout Simcoe County and the District of Muskoka, according to police.
During the investigation and as a result of the search warrants executed, police seized drugs, currency and two motor vehicles with a combined value in excess of $230,000.
With cocaine and heroin being mixed with fentanyl and the city's ever-present opioid crisis, Leon said it was "a significant concern in our community."
"When we saw the magnitude of what we were dealing with, it was important to reach out to our counterparts in law enforcement to formulate a plan," Leon told BarrieToday this afternoon. "Together, we were able to infiltrate and execute these search warrants so that the drugs that were destined for our streets never made it there. That's an important point for people to understand."
The probe began in Barrie and radiated out in a "cautious" and "calculated" fashion, Leon said, culminating last Thursday with arrests, search warrants and more than 30 criminal charges being laid, including 23 under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act (CDSA) and seven under the Criminal Code.
No names have been released.
The investigation was initially undertaken by the Barrie police department's intelligence, street crime, drug enforcement and asset forfeiture units, along with the OPP community street crime unit.
"We obviously take this type of information very seriously when it is received," noted Leon, who could not comment on how police were tipped off. "It could just be from officers out there speaking to people, doing their job and doing what they do best. ... but it's important for us to act upon it very quickly."
Leon said the "majority of the work is done" with the case, while also noting that there is always more to do.
"When you're dealing with elements of society and dealing with drug-related issues, the work is never done," he added. "Where we conclude today, we pick up tomorrow and continue running with it. At the end of the day, it's about getting these drugs off the street and keeping our communities safe."
Barrie police Insp. Peter Dewsnap said this is a case that illustrates the importance of police agencies working together.
"This is an excellent example of borderless policing and I commend all those involved in this incredible initiative that focused on the safety of our community and those that surround and extend beyond Barrie," Dewsnap said in a news release.