HALIFAX -- The Fredericton Police Force has reported increases in drug possession offences, break and enters and mental health assistance calls in 2019.

The numbers come after the force went through a restruFrcturing, and added a fulltime drug and organized crime unit and street crime team to its force.

There was a 78 per cent spike in cocaine possession and 33 per cent increase in crystal meth possession between 2018 and 2019. Police say break and enters were also up 28 per cent.

A spokesperson for the force says crystal meth has become an issue across New Brunswick – and an area Fredericton’s new unit is focused on.

Alycia Bartlett also says patrols are a priority.

“We are happy to say that we are staffed to 100% on the front lines, and there are more officers on the streets. Shift times have adjusted to make sure we have the most amount of officers working when call numbers are at their highest,” she said in an email. “What is more important is that the public should notice an increased police presence in and around the city in patrols.”

Those who work with vulnerable populations throughout the city say some of the numbers are not surprising – and there’s more the community can do to address them.

“I can say that crystal meth seems to be more prevalent than it was before,” said Joan Kingston, the nurse manager at Fredericton’s Downtown Community Health Clinic. “I think among people that are homeless, particularly that 15 per cent that are chronically or episodically homeless, many of them face challenges of mental illness and addiction.”

Kingston says much of the homeless population has come to trust staff at the Clinic, and that dozens use it as their address so they can receive social assistance.

Last year, Fredericton Police responded to more than double the number of calls for mental health assistance than the year prior. And over 50 attempted suicides were reported.

Kingston says more needs to be done to address mental illness and addictions, and it starts with housing.

“People have so many challenges, and in the winter, there are even obviously more challenges, the danger of the cold itself,” she said. “But this is a year-round issue, and this is an issue that’s not going to go away without a response that allows people to access services and to have a home of their own.”

She says Fredericton needs about 40 “permanent supportive housing” units to help – which would be both a place to call home for those who don’t have one and receive services they may need.