Informant / informer: noun. a person who informs against another; one who detects offenders and lays information against them for reward.
In such a small community one would think it virtually impossible to secure a good informant, someone who was prepared to provide information in relation to another's criminal activities. Not so.
The fines for possession of a controlled drug, or drug equipment, are relatively high, reported in the Island's newspapers and imprisonment a distinct possibility. If you have a drug habit, to serve a term of imprisonment deprives you of an easy supply (albeit Bermuda's prison is currently the subject of attention due to the use of controlled drugs within its walls).
For the first time offender, or the person who has not previously been convicted, the inconvenience is greater.
It must be remembered that Bermuda is an island of 21 square miles. Certainly it has beaches, some good restaurants and an hospitable atmosphere, ideal for socialising. But, 'island fever' can set in, the allure of the world beckons and America is less than 300 miles away. Whatever your reason, shopping, socialising, entertainment etc. it is good once in a while to take a break.
If you have a narcotics conviction the United States will not permit you entry. It matters not that it is possession of a small piece of drinking straw in which there were traces of cocaine, or possession of narcotics with intent to supply. Once convicted, if you want to visit the US it is best to take a flight to the UK then to the US. Expensive and protracted.
If you want to progress your narcotics 'business' then access to the US is a must.
Whether you are arrested for possession of a SUSPECTED controlled drug, or equipment bearing traces of a SUSPECTED controlled drug, should it transpire that the suspect material is a controlled drug there is every likelihood you will receive a conviction.
Once you have been arrested, conveyed to the station, booked in and interviewed, bail will almost certainly follow. The SUSPECTED drug, or equipment bearing traces of a SUSPECTED controlled drug will be sent for analysis. You now have a period of up to 6 weeks to wait for the results of the examination.
More to the point, you now have a period of 6 weeks to find the narcotics office something 'better', the next person up the ladder. If you were arrested for possession, we want the supplier, or a supplier. If you can supply this information and an arrest follows; you are free to go.
You will read (in my Diary) of the arrest of Vernon Dill who was convicted of possessing cocaine with intent to supply. He was arrested in November 1988 following details from an informant who, in company with his friends, was never placed before a Court.
Possibly the most concerning aspect for anyone arrested was the unknown. The narcotics office would be submitting the articles seized from you as an exhibit for examination. The power of arrest extended to mere suspicion that an article was a controlled drug or that the the 'equipment' in your possession was drug paraphernalia and bore traces of a drug. The latter was generally 'crack' pipes or a syringe, but could extend to a spoon or a short length of straw.
The concern for someone arrested in relation to a SUSPICION was whether the 'slight belief' or 'faint notion' would be confirmed following examination. Once arrested the items seized from a prisoner, potential exhibits, are now in the control of the arresting officer.
The exhibits will be bagged, sealed and placed securely in the Narcotics department before they are conveyed to the Government analyst. But what happens to them from the time of arrest to being placed with the Narcotics office custodian? Who knows.
The narcotics office was hardly a controlled environment, certainly not sterile. Any amount of contamination could take place, accidentally or otherwise. Drug equipment was regularly seized from 'crack houses', often without prisoner. Many exhibits did not find their way any further than an officer's desk. Why not?
What possible use would anyone in the narcotics office have for a piece of foil bearing traces of a white powder; a stainless steel teaspoon with a dried residue on the top, burnt beneath; a small plastic bottle with gauze on top fashioned into a 'pipe' by use of a small length of tube?
You could never be certain the item seized from you would not (much to your surprise) be analysed and found to be a controlled drug or have traces of a controlled drug on it.
The simple solution was to inform on another.
In some cases this was simple, if you had a habit it would only be natural for you to buy from a small-time dealer. In other instances, where more serious amounts of drug were involved and the consequences that much more serious, the Narcotics department may need something a little more 'spectacular'.
No one asked questions, everyone was happy with a 'good result'. It is almost certain some of the smaller dealers were set up by informant or their competitors. Bermuda had (has?) no official list of informants, no register. There was (is?) absolutely no control over an informants activity or the meetings held with them.
It would take a drug user, or small time dealer, little to secure a quantity of cocaine sufficient to prosecute for possession with intent to supply. As a small time dealer, you may be looking at some months in prison, why not buy sufficient cocaine and sell it to a target then inform on him? It is not as if you will lose much money; buy $1,500 of cocaine and sell for $1000 (too good a bargain to miss) to your 'mark', take a loss of $500 to ensure you receive a verbal warning and are never placed before the Court.
Who cared if the 'informant' was placed before the Court. We already had his drug (from his initial arrest) which amounted to an 'on the spot fine'.
Narcotics investigation is like no other. There is no crime. No one comes running to the police shouting "that man stole my drugs", "I've been beaten up for selling inferior narcotics". Occasionally the residents of an area may complain that people are selling in their neighbourhood or to their children. Sadly, innocent people are mugged for cash, or burgled to pay for the drug habit of another and the occasional user dies. The only crime is that which we went out and found.
In reality, the person setting up the 'mark' would lose less, he had no doubt already 'cut' (adulterated, diluted the drug's purity - see cocaine) and retained sufficient for himself or re-sale.
The 'mark' need not be someone the informant had bought from before. The Island was small enough for most people to either know of another area of supply or to be introduced a new supplier. There were many people who would buy from more than one supplier and could make the connection. As a narcotics officer you could dictate the target.
Many of the arrests for cannabis resulted not because informants were attempting to avoid prosecution, some were simply seeking to cut out the competition. There was a glut of cannabis, much supplied by the cruise ships and the demand had not rocketed as had happened with cocaine.
Informants for heroin were rare as most of those who were arrested were addicts and could not care less. In prison they could obtain a heroin substitute.
The island was awash with informants. With some, none of the above was applicable, they did it for the fun of it!
Please see the diary, or use the search facility to view all instances where an informant is mentioned. An informant, for the purposes of this site, will be consistently labelled throughout i.e. informant1.
It is possibly of note that the Drug Court (as reported in the Bermuda Sun - 16.09.98) could put an end to one fear expressed by drug users / dealers. It would also give Bermuda the chance to export drug users who, having received a taste for the drug or the money that can be made selling narcotics, wish to expand their knowledge, network or supply.
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