A southern police officer has a plea for the south: don't let drugs ruin rural New Zealand.
"That means telling us what is going on out there," Senior Sergeant Al Dickie said. The big one is methamphetamine, a synthetic drug with more rapid and lasting effects than amphetamine, used illegally as a stimulant.
Earlier this year, southern police were concerned gangs using pyramid selling techniques were selling more methamphetamine in the south. At the time, Senior Sergeant Richard McPhail, of Gore, said eastern Southland was not immune to methamphetamine.
The Police Association talks about "chipping away at the tip of a very solid iceberg, and trying to stay one step ahead of the gangs that run the meth trade". It realised early on that tackling meth is not just a law enforcement issue; police simply could not solve the problem on their own, and its use – and abuse, was spreading like cancer, Dickie said. "The evidence is there now of lives being ruined. Crime is creeping up in terms of violence between drug offenders; home invasions, robberies and serious assaults were increasing, as were mental health issues. The impacts are slowly but surely permeating throughout New Zealand. "This is a major threat to our young people."
He said there had been a definite increase in crime linked to meth in and around Dunedin, such as armed robberies at dairies to get money for the offenders' meth habit. Serious assaults and home invasions were also linked to drug activity where people had not paid their drug debts. He said it had not reached that stage in south Otago yet, but the signs were clear it could get a foothold in rural towns if not managed. Gangs and other individuals were making a killing from this filthy business, Dickie said. The crimes had a flow-on effect where users became desperate for money to feed their habit, or offended because they were out of control and did not know what they were doing. "The community and police must work together to try and combat the problem before it becomes the ruination of small town New Zealand. That means telling us what is going on out there."
There were drugs when he started out as a young plod in south Otago in the 1980s, but they weren't hard drugs. "Back then there was the single men's quarters at the Finegand freezing works, drawing all sorts from around the country, who dabbled in dope and other offending in their time off. No drug testing back then."
In 2014 four men were arrested after police found up to $42,000 worth of methamphetamine in a vehicle destined for Southland. The arrests happened after police and members of the armed offenders squad stopped a vehicle suspected of carrying methamphetamine in Castle St, Dunedin. Detective Senior Sergeant Malcolm Inglis, at the time, said a search found about 35 grams of the drug in the vehicle, as well as about $7500 in cash. Police understood the methamphetamine was destined for the streets of Southland.
Questions about the impact of methamphetamine on Southland were put to Southland area commander Inspector Joel Lamb. Police media liaisons requested The Southland Times lodge an Official Information Act request.
26 September 2016
Source: The Southland Times
Photo: MARY-JO TOHILL / FAIRFAX NZ
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