TOP COP PLEAS FOR UNITED EF­FORT ON ICE

Wangaratta Chronicle - - Front Page - By IN­SPEC­TOR KER­RIE HICKS, Vic­to­ria Po­lice Wan­garatta Lo­cal Area Com­man­der and Lo­cal Drug Ac­tion Team mem­ber

In 2001, I com­menced my polic­ing ca­reer as a trainee con­sta­ble at Fitzroy Po­lice Sta­tion.

There was a glut of heroin and mul­ti­ple and tragic daily drug over­doses were not un­com­mon.

In 2004 I trans­ferred to the in­ner metropoli­tan western sub­urbs and for sev­eral years was in­volved in drug in­ves­ti­ga­tion work.

While sup­ply re­duc­tion and tar­get­ing high risk of­fend­ers is a crit­i­cal part of the drug harm re­duc­tion strat­egy, I couldn’t help but feel that we were only putting a bandaid on a gap­ing wound.

One small team I worked in pro­cessed over 100 drug of­fend­ers in a three month pe­riod.

One ar­rest would quickly lead to more and we fol­lowed the trail, ex­e­cut­ing war­rants, seiz­ing drugs, para­pher­na­lia and as­sets and suc­cess­fully pros­e­cuted of­fend­ers.

Many drug traf­fick­ers went to jail, but even­tu­ally an­other syn­di­cate mem­ber or new player would step up and profit by tar­get­ing vul­ner­a­ble peo­ple in our com­mu­nity.

Drug and al­co­hol ser­vices were over­whelmed and court back­logs were con­sid­er­able.

The harm to in­di­vid­u­als par­tak­ing in drug use and the flow on ef­fect to their loved ones was dev­as­tat­ing.

Fif­teen years later, drugs in our com­mu­nity con­tin­ues to be a wicked prob­lem.

I don’t have the an­swers, but I do know that po­lice can’t ar­rest their way out of it. We can’t do it alone.

Since ar­riv­ing in Wan- garatta as your Lo­cal Area Com­man­der, I have be­come in­volved in the Wan­garatta Lo­cal Drug Ac­tion Team (LDAT).

The LDAT is an im­pres­sive group of peo­ple with a shared goal to re­duce drug harm in our com­mu­nity.

It’s a pro­gres­sive and col­lab­o­ra­tive group of peo­ple who un­der­stand and iden­tify that no one agency, op­er­at­ing in silo, will be able to achieve the nec­es­sary pos­i­tive change we need.

At a re­cent meet­ing I was hum­bled by the sto­ries of our com­mu­nity mem­bers who have lived experiences of loved ones find­ing them­selves in the drug ad­dic­tion cy­cle.

It was a timely re­minder of the im­por­tance of this work and the need for a pri­mary preven­tion fo­cus.

Once the ad­dic­tion cy­cle has taken a hold, it is so in­cred­i­bly dif­fi­cult to break it.

And let’s not for­get that there are a num­ber of le­gal drugs, such as al­co­hol, pre­scrip­tion med­i­ca­tion and ever evolv­ing syn­thetic sub­stances that cause harm in our com­mu­nity.

Po­lice will al­ways have an en­force­ment role and there is and will al­ways be a need to tar­get high risk of­fend­ers.

How­ever, aca­demic re­search has iden­ti­fied that ev­i­dence based ap­proaches at the lo­cal level, with a preven­tion and in­tel­li­gence fo­cus are far more likely to be ef­fec­tive than tra­di­tional polic­ing ap­proaches fo­cused solely on en­force­ment and dis­rup­tion.

I’m very proud to be part of the work be­ing un­der­taken by the Wan­garatta LDAT.

...a preven­tion and in­tel­li­gence fo­cus are far more likely to be ef­fec­tive than tra­di­tional polic­ing ap­proaches fo­cused solely on en­force­ment and dis­rup­tion. - In­spec­tor Ker­rie Hicks

I en­cour­age ev­ery­one to in­crease their un­der­stand­ing and aware­ness of the early in­di­ca­tors that some­one may be start­ing to take drugs and to sup­port them in con­nect­ing with the many ser­vices avail­able.

I also im­plore any­one with knowl­edge of drug traf­fick­ers prey­ing on our vul­ner­a­ble for their own profit to tell us.

Peo­ple can re­port crime in­for­ma­tion anony­mously to Crime Stop­pers ei­ther via their web­site www. crimestop­persvic. com. au or by phone 1800 333 000.

As a vi­brant, con­nected and re­silient com­mu­nity, we each have a role to play in keep­ing an eye out for our neigh­bours, our col­leagues, our friends, our loved ones, our sport­ing team mates.

If you think they need sup­port, please guide them in the right di­rec­tion be­fore they be­come en­tan­gled in the crim­i­nal jus­tice sys­tem.

Preven­tion is the nec­es­sary fo­cus.

It will take a whole of com­mu­nity ap­proach to tackle our wicked drug prob­lem.

We all have a role to play. Are you do­ing your part?

NO SIM­PLE SO­LU­TION: It will take a whole of com­mu­nity ap­proach to tackle our wicked drug prob­lem ac­cord­ing to In­spec­tor Ker­rie Hicks.

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