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Meth use skyrockets

Thursday, 10th December, 2015

A map of NSW showing the rate of use or possession of methamphetamine. The darkest areas, which include the Far West, have the highest rate. A map of NSW showing the rate of use or possession of methamphetamine. The darkest areas, which include the Far West, have the highest rate.

The scourge of methamphetamine is hitting country towns like Broken Hill even worse than the big cities.

This was borne out yesterday in new crime statistics that showed the rate of use of what has become know as “ice” in NSW had risen by 60 per cent in the regions in just two years.

The figures were released by the Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research.

Its director, Don Weatherburn, said the continued growth in arrests for use and possession of amphetamines was alarming.

Dr Weatherburn said first-time arrests rose by more than 70 per cent in the Coffs Harbour-Grafton area, the Shoalhaven, Far West and the Murray.

“Over the last five years in NSW the number of first-time arrests for use and/or possession of amphetamines has risen by 60 per cent,” he said.

“Every part of the state is affected but some of the biggest increases have occurred in regional NSW.”

Broken Hill police were onto the problem about 18 months ago when they established a strike force to catch the ice dealers in town.

Several rings have been busted and dealers sentenced to jail while others await their time in court.

But the battle goes on because, unlike drugs such as heroin or cocaine, for example, ice can be fairly easily made from what are readily-available industrial chemicals.

“It’s cheap, it’s nasty, it’s available and there is always some low-life wanting to take the risk of making money at other people’s expense,” said the Barrier Command’s Crime Manager, Detective Inspector Mick Stoltenberg.

“Over the last 12 to 18 months we’ve had some pretty good success but obviously we will continue to target those bringing illicit drugs into the area.”

DI Stoltenberg said the public’s help with tip offs about drug dealers or suspected drug labs was always welcome.

“Police are very keen to continue to work with the community, and if anyone out there has information we’d like them to feel very free to let us know.”

According to data from the Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research (BOCSAR) cannabis and narcotic use charges also rose. Ecstasy was the only drug to buck the trend and remain stagnant.

NSW Police Commissioner Andrew Scipione said the rise in drug use offences showed that police were catching more of the offenders.

“NSW Police will continue to work hard to tackle the scourge of illegal drugs,” Mr Scipione said.

“We see time and time again the irreversible damage drugs have on individuals, their families and the wider community.”

The number of people busted for dealing, trafficking, cultivating or manufacturing most drugs remained steady in the past 24 months.

However, drug importation charges almost halved, while arrests of cannabis dealers and traffickers caught peddling their wares fell by more than 30 per cent.

But Police Minister Troy Grant said the rise in drug use was disappointing.

“The scourge of drug use across the state and particularly in regional areas is disheartening and I will continue to ensure police have the tools they need to crack down on crime,” said the former country copper. -BDT/AAP

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