The head of the local RCMP says that despite the rise of cocaine-related charges in the area, Merritt is a safe community with a relatively low gang presence.
"We are not exempt from gang involvement in the city but we do not have a gang situation in the city," said Merritt RCMP Sgt. Norm Flemming.
Local police have already laid 15 cocaine-trafficking charges in the first five months of 2012, Flemming told the City of Merritt council June 12.
By contrast, there were 11 charges in 2011, 10 in 2010, and only two such charges in 2009.
Flemming indicated that cocaine's presence has increased in other parts of the province, not just the Nicola Valley.
"Cocaine has really supplanted marijuana as the drug of choice in British Columbia."
Flemming made the comments as part of a presentation on local crime to the city council at its regular meeting June 12. He compared statistics for various crimes, including drug offences, for 2011 and 2012 up to the end of May.
During his presentation, he said most local drug activity is the result of dealers from the Lower Mainland.
Although there are organized criminals working in Merritt, there is no drug lord or kingpin based here, Flemming said.
"We've made it very uncomfortable to even set up a foothold here."
Flemming said finding drug dealers in a small town is easier than in a big city since the appearance of strangers is more noticeable.
Reducing drug- and alcohol-related crimes could lead to a drop in other types of social problems and criminal activities, he said.
However, in his concluding remarks, Flemming said that he believes Merritt is a place people can walk through comfortably at night.
"I view the city as friendly and safe."
In an interview with the News earlier this month, Merritt RCMP Const. Tracy Dunsmore said of crack cocaine, "It's probably one of the more popular drugs."
She agreed that the major drug dealers here are from outside the Nicola Valley but added, "We have our share of locals who do that."
Besides crack and marijuana, RCMP seized a large amount of ecstasy several years ago, Dunsmore said.
Drug users also often abuse prescription drugs such as morphine, amphetamines, Percocet, and even Tylenol 3, although oxycodone is relatively uncommon here compared to back East, she said.
"Just any kind of drug that's prescribed, if it alters your mood, they can use it for misuse."