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Police look for community help in funding ConAir transfers

Feb 12 2012

When 26-year-old Mitchel John Andonov was handed over to Edmonton police officers by Nanimo Mounties last weekend, he became the first suspected criminal to be flown out of Nanaimo under police escort to another jurisdiction through the so-called ConAir program.

Antonov, who was accused of involvement in more than 20 break-and-enters in Nanaimo over the past two months, was wanted in Alberta under outstanding warrants.

Citing the prohibitive costs of $1,600 for the three plane tickets alone, Nanaimo RCMP spokesman Const. Gary O'Brien said the detachment would be seeking partnerships with local community organizations to help foot the bill for future flights.

The measure will be used very sparingly, police have said.

"If we've got a guy who's got outstanding warrants in Newfoundland, to send two guys back to Newfoundland is a huge investment," O'Brien said.

"We've got to be selective. You can't get somebody who's picked up on a theft-under [$5,000] charge."

Andonov appeared in court in Edmonton last week and was remanded in custody.

While he was suspected in Nanaimo crimes, he also had eight outstanding Alberta warrants for his arrest on charges ranging from domestic violence to property and traffic offences.

O'Brien said the two escorting Mounties stayed in Edmonton on Saturday night on their own dime and flew back the next day.

Police will make decisions about future uses of ConAir on a caseby-case basis, balancing the need to prosecute on local charges and the benefit to the community to having an offender removed from the area, he said.

"The reality is if [a criminal] does time here, he's going to be consorting with criminals locally, come out and most likely fall back into a life of crime," he said.

Vancouver Police Department introduced ConAir in 2007.

Last summer, the department released a ConAir "Top 10." By the end of the year, most of the suspects had been arrested and flown out of B.C.

O'Brien said while there are approximately 300 active warrants in the City of Nanaimo at any given time, Vancouver's active warrants number in the thousands.

"They have bigger fish to fry," he said.

"They have guys from all over the different provinces, all over the world, and it's beneficial to Vancouver to get rid of them."

When ConAir started in Vancouver, Nanaimo RCMP looked at entering into partnerships locally to pay for the service here, O'Brien said.

"We'd certainly be interested in that [again]," he said.

"We were looking at going to these Rotary Clubs, telling them the benefit to the community and asking them if they'd be interested in upping the money."

Last weekend's flights were paid for through the detachment's operating budget.

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