School kids on ice

BACK THE BLUE: Ben Buffett, Police Association of NSW southern region representative outside the Merimbula police station on Tuesday, September 11.
BACK THE BLUE: Ben Buffett, Police Association of NSW southern region representative outside the Merimbula police station on Tuesday, September 11.

School children as young as 14 have been caught using the drug ‘ice’ by local police, but a lack of resources is hampering their efforts to contain the drug, according to the Police Association of NSW (PANSW).

PANSW southern region representative Ben Buffett said the ice drug problem is growing in the area.

“We are seeing younger people becoming involved and an increase in ice use in the last few years; it’s more readily available to adolescents and appears to be a drug of choice,” Mr Buffett said.

But he said that because of a shortage of resources police were only able to deal with the fallout of the people caught using it, rather than targeting the suppliers.

The PANSW is calling for an increase of eight police for the Bega area, one general duties constable in Bega, two in Eden, two in Merimbula and a licensing officer in Bega to deal with licensed premises and gun licensing issues.

The organisation also wants to see a detective dedicated to managing sex offenders on the Child Protection Register. There are strict rules around the return of such offenders to the community with regular checks required. This is not a stand alone position at the moment, Mr Buffett said, with the work “divided between officers who were under pressure”.

The eighth position, Mr Buffett said, was a tech position for a stand alone officer trained in extracting information from mobile phones and computers. He said there were currently 900 vacancies across the state.

“Rather than having the capability with officers from Merimbula and Eden working, Bega officers are being used to fill shifts in those areas. We have a lack of police numbers to provide the coverage needed.

“For the community that means delayed response times because of the sheer size of the distances that have to be covered,” he said.

The PANSW is calling on the community to support its Back the Blue campaign for more officers by signing the petition calling for 2500 more officers.

PANSW executive member Jason Hogan said that ehe staffing shortages are leaving smaller communities vulnerable, with first responders often having to cover huge areas.

“Every police officer knows how all-pervasive ice has become. 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,” Mr Hogan said.

“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.

“That’s why we need additional police on our front line in the South Coast Police District – to deal with the hold ice has taken in our communities.

“The South Coast of NSW does not even have a Regional Enforcement Squad meaning we lack the capability to target the dealers peddling this awful 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,”  Mr Hogan 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 our ice problem, we need the resources to be able to focus on the drug dealers – the people pedalling this poison in our communities.

“Regional towns like ours need specialised, targeted plans and resources to deal with ice. When it comes to dedicated police resourcing to deal with drug crime, our regions are missing out.

“Our communities are crying out for action, and all we as police are asking for are the resources we need to keep our communities safe.We need the whole community to back our campaign for more police,” he said.