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Cops ‘out of their depth in ice fight’

Friday, 6th March, 2015

By Erica Visser

Local police were no better equipped to crack the region’s ice epidemic than ordinary residents, according to the independent candidate for Barwon.

With the election due this month, Rohan Boehm has honed in on the problem he thinks is most common in the electorate - heavyweight drug dealers declaring country towns “open for business”.

In November last year local police established Strikeforce Nublu in a bid to combat the growing use of crystal methamphetamine.

Since then police said they had “ripped apart” a local criminal gang that was allegedly supplying the hard drug, along with firearms.

But Mr Boehm, a Narrabri business owner, said that police did not have the skills to wipe out the epidemic alone and called for “tougher and better” policing.

He said that, if elected, he would fight for a “specialised drug squad” made up of police experienced in urban drug culture and the tactics used by major crime gangs. 

“Big crime is coming to towns both large and small and destroying the social fabric,” Mr Boehm told the BDT.

“What we’ve seen in other states is it takes a bit more than local police to do this. It does require very high-level skills in policing to pursue the evidence and prosecutions that are required.

“I don’t want to politicise the police force and this is not a draconian, crackdown type of approach.

“They are specialised police forces; these are not large numbers of police cars roaring around with lights going off and looking like they’re doing something.”

Mr Boehm has not yet talked to police in Broken Hill about his idea, but believed they were “grappling” with the problem as much as everybody else.

Since the beginning of his campaign, he said he had heard an average of one to two stories a week about Barwon towns struggling with the drug.

“I’m hearing these stories of great pain. People have not been saying the police are not doing a good job; mostly very well.

“But this is a whole new scenario. It’s something I think police are no more equipped to deal with than we are and they’d be grappling like us.

“Criminal justice is very different to civil justice.”

Mr Boehm outlined his plan of attack.

“We need a ‘flying squad’ trained in specialist techniques to target the drug importers and local dealers and handle the violent crime associated with ice users,” he said.

“We need to strategically target dealers, their routes and those individuals known to house dealers.

“A zero tolerance policy directed at these people by experienced police is the only way to stamp out this drug and crime epidemic.”

Mr Boehm said the large cost of such an operation would be far outweighed by the benefits.

“The cost would pale into insignificance. We are all under the pain of the social costs of this - medical costs, unemployment, family breakdowns, cost to society.

“Word is out that country towns are an easy hit. The word’s out in the market that if you want to get in the game, now’s the time.”

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