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An RCMP cruiser parked on the side of a highway behind a transport truck.

Roving Traffic Units keep roads safe

Throughout the first half of 2020, the Manitoba Roving Traffic Unit seized more than 480 cases of tobacco, 567 kilos of contraband cannabis products and 680 grams of cocaine. Credit: RCMP


Excessive speeds, distracted and impaired driving, and drug trafficking are a few things officers with the Manitoba RCMP Roving Traffic Unit can encounter while patrolling the province's highways.

The flexible unit is dedicated to traffic enforcement and patrols highways throughout the province helping keep them safe for all users.

While typical traffic offences are top of mind for officers, the roving unit also works to spot and disrupt criminals travelling on the roadways.

Officers have enhanced training to help catch criminals using the highways, during regular traffic stops. Through heightened observational, conversational and investigative skills, they look for red flags and anything out of the ordinary that could indicate a bigger problem.

"The members are trained to recognize small things and put it all together to paint a picture of what could be happening," says Cpl. Shaun Vickery, with the RCMP National Traffic Services in Ottawa, who helps co-ordinate Roving Traffic Unit training.

Significant seizures

The roving unit's work helps disrupt organized crime groups that are using Canadian roadways to transport illicit goods like drugs and contraband tobacco or cash proceeds of crime.

"They need to get things from point A to point B, and roads are one way they do that," says Cpl. Gary Clyde, who oversees the Roving Traffic Unit in Manitoba.

In May, officers with the Manitoba's roving unit seized 3.5 million contraband cigarettes during a traffic stop.

In Manitoba, the Roving Traffic Unit conducts commercial vehicle enforcement as well. The officers check logbooks and ensure drivers are following cargo rules designed to keep highways safer for everyone. If the traffic stop raises alarm, they may investigate further.

Later in May, officers pulled over a tractor trailer in eastern Manitoba and discovered inconsistent paperwork. Further investigation found 567 kilograms of unstamped contraband cannabis products.

While the large seizures keep drugs off the streets, they have a larger effect of hampering the cash flow of organized crime.

"The officers do this work as they conduct Highway Traffic Act enforcement," says S/Sgt. Kyle McFadyen, of the Manitoba RCMP Traffic Services.

Tools of the trade

The unit uses typical traffic enforcement tools such as speed radars and blood-alcohol concentration testing devices, as well as some more speciality tools.

A police dog handler and police services dog trained to detect narcotics work as part of the Manitoba RCMP Roving Traffic Unit.

The unit also uses two grey police cruisers with subdued graphics. The vehicles are identifiable as police cars, but can more easily blend in with other traffic.

"It's a combination of being covert and being visible," says McFadyen.

When necessary, the roving unit will help other detachments with their work.

"We've assisted various detachments and we're quite flexible in that regard," says Clyde. "We can help with increased patrols if there's a public safety issue."

Manitoba isn't the only province with a Roving Traffic Unit. RCMP in British Columbia, Alberta and Saskatchewan are also home to the units patrolling their provinces' highways.

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