[h1]Ecstasy helps us deal with drunks, say cops[/h1]
By Robyn Ironside
August 09, 2008 02:15am
IF it was not for the prevalence of ecstasy in Brisbane's Fortitude Valley, understaffed police say they would struggle to cope with the drunken violence.
Last Saturday night only 15 officers were rostered on to deal with up to 60,000 people in the entertainment precinct - one officer for every 4000 people.
A Central District officer who did not want to be named said they had about the same number of police rostered on Saturday nights as they did weekday mornings.
"We're at the point where we're saying thank God 80 per cent of them are using an illegal drug rather than alcohol, even though in 10 years they'll be suffering manic depressive disorders," the officer said.
"But we just couldn't deal with that many people affected by alcohol."
He said police were not able to deliver a satisfactory "level of service" and were flat out responding to calls rather than undertaking preventative actions.
"It is embarrassing. We've sworn an oath to do certain things and we're not being given the resources to achieve that," the officer said.
Drug Arm national communications manager Josie Loth said it was well known that illicit drugs such as ecstasy were much more prevalent in the Valley than other parts of Brisbane.
"It's deemed more acceptable than in the city because the Valley's the alternative scene and always has been," Ms Loth said.
She said although ecstasy was a stimulant it tended to relax people but alcohol had the opposite effect. "When certain people drink . . . it brings out more of a violent tendency, often leading to problems," Ms Loth said.
Australian Medical Association Emergency Department spokeswoman Alex Markwell said alcohol definitely contributed to a lot more injuries than drugs.
"Young men especially can become aggressive on alcohol and get involved in fights and assaults," she said.
"The really common things that we see at the Royal Brisbane and Women's Hospital are head injuries where they've fallen over and hit their heads and we see lots of people with broken hands after hitting people."
"It really is very frustrating from a medical perspective because it chews up our resources. If people didn't drink we wouldn't see anywhere near as many patients as we do."
Police said that although drug users tended not to cause as many problems as binge drinkers, they were "competing horrors".
"The big thing a lot of us feel is that one of the most dangerous and insidious things about 'e' (ecstasy) is that most young people think it's not hurting them but every time they use it, it's hurting them a little," the officer said.
"We deal with them all the time; these kids who are now 30 or 40 who are suffering serious mental health problems as a result of their drug use in their 20s. Often it ends in suicide."
Queensland Police Union president Cameron Pope declined to comment on the drug use in Fortitude Valley but he said the staffing shortages in the district were not an isolated issue.
A Queensland Police Service spokesman said an "intelligence based" roster system was used in the Central District of the Valley and CBD which made public safety the primary objective. "Officers are rostered during peak periods to respond to calls for service," the spokesman said.