Front-line local police are at “breaking point” in dealing with what they describe as an ice epidemic here and throughout the state.
The NSW Police Association is lobbying for 58 more officers in the Hume Police District, which takes in Goulburn, and 1185 across the State to deal with the amphetamine’s use.
“Every police officer knows how all-pervasive ice has become,” Goulburn branch chairman Ed Taylor said.
“It dominates our work, it has links to domestic violence, mental health incidents, road fatalities, youth crime, house and business break ins, organised crime and it is destroying lives. These are the symptoms of the prevalence of ice in our communities.
“Local police are so stretched that they’re drowning, just dealing with the symptoms of ice and users rather than focusing their efforts on the supply chain.
“All we can do at the moment is mop up the problems, rather than getting to the root of the issue and stopping the drugs before they hit our streets.”
The Association also wants an extra 72 police in regional enforcement squads, a doubling of numbers, with 12 of these dedicated to Hume.
It has analysed Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research (BOCSAR) data for use and possession of amphetamines per 100,000 population for the year to December, 2017. The Association says this places Goulburn Mulwaree in the top 10 ice ‘hot spots’ across the State, behind Tweed and Muswellbrook.
Mr Taylor, a serving Goulburn officer, said more resources in the regional enforcement squads were essential to disrupt and detect the manufacturers and suppliers of the drug.
“The NSW Government has a choice – it can either sit back and watch while this drug continues to take hold of our communities, or it can listen to the police on the ground and deliver the additional resources we need to keep our streets safe,” he said.
“Ice is a problem everywhere in the state, but our regional areas are shouldering the brunt of the scourge. If we’re serious about tackling it, we need the resources to be able to focus on the drug dealers – the people peddling this poison.”
The push for more resources is part of the Association’s campaign, ‘Back the Blue,’ for an extra 2500 police across NSW.
On the weekend BOCSAR director Don Weatherburn acknowledged that some drug incidents had been mistakenly double counted in crime statistics. But he told the Sydney Morning Herald this did not affect the trend in overall drug reports.
The Police Association’s southern region organiser Ben Buffett said the data was still relevant and showed trends and locations where these crimes were occurring.
“The error identified has had very little impact on ice detections,” he said.
“Statistics are important, but you can’t argue with the experiences of our members on the front line dealing with the scourge day in and day out. Behind every one of those numbers is a family crying out for help, a community in crisis and a dealer peddling this evil drug.”
The data revealed that in in the year to June, 2018 there were 50 incidents of amphetamine possession and use in Goulburn Mulwaree, up from 37 in 2016/17 and 43 the year prior. There were also 10 incidents of dealing and trafficking in amphetamines in 2017/18, down from 16 in 2016/17. Other drug categories, such as use and possession of cannabis also showed rises. (94 incidents in 2017/18)
Local police statistics show 135 overall drug detection/possession incidents from January 1 to September 11, 2018. This contrasted with 95 for the same period in 2017.
In the period July 1, 2016 to June 30, 2017 - 387 random roadside drug tests returned positive results to methylamphetamine (ice) and cannabis. This compared to 258 positive results from July 1, 2017 to June 30, 2018. Goulburn Local Court magistrate Geraldine Beattie has this year been scathing of the number of cases before her.
Mr Buffett said the Hume Police District needed more resources to tackle the ice problem and fill gaps, particularly given several challenges. There were currently eight vacancies but officers were also diverted from general duties to transport prisoners when Corrective Services’ was not available.
“We’re asking for 58 more police but when you break it down across the District, it’s not actually a lot,” he said.
“Following the restructure, the Police Minister told us that if we needed more resources, to ask. Well, we are.”
At Goulburn, he said 11 more constables were needed. An additional sergeant was also needed for the Crookwell sector. District wide, two sergeants and eight constables were required for the proactive crime command, an extra crime prevention officer, a licensing sergeant, which was currently lacking, among other positions. Mr Buffett argued a stand alone regional enforcement squad was needed for Hume, rather than relying on those in Wagga Wagga and Queanbeyan to tackle the drug problem.
“It is 100 per cent feeding into other areas such as domestic violence and mental health incidents and it puts a strain on emergency services,” Mr Buffett said.
“If we had additional resources it would help reduce crime.”