Otago Daily Times

Meth ‘well and truly here now’


- JARED MOR­GAN Crime · Otago Region · Invercargill · District Court · Wanaka · Queenstown · Queenstown

CEN­TRAL Otago has lost its in­no­cence re­gard­ing metham­phetamine and it went up in smoke in the space of just a few years.

De­tec­tive Sergeant Derek Shaw, of the Cen­tral Otago CIB, said while the drug had been slow to ar­rive in the re­gion it was ‘‘well and truly here now’’.

‘‘I think was have lost our in­no­cence a wee bit around here in the past cou­ple of years.’’

The slower ar­rival meant the prob­lem was less than in larger cen­tres but for ev­ery dealer taken out of cir­cu­la­tion, an­other would swiftly take their place, he said.

Cen­tral Otago was gen­er­ally at the end of line for sup­ply as the main cor­ri­dor for metham­phetamine’s spread and ‘‘ac­tu­ally most crime’’ cen­tred around State High­way 1.

The laws of sup­ply and de­mand gov­erned the sup­ply and use of meth in Cen­tral Otago.

‘‘I’m sure no­body chooses to be ad­dicted to any­thing, be it metham­phetamine, al­co­hol, gam­bling . . . It’s the ad­dic­tion that drives de­mand, that drives sup­ply, and meth ap­pears to be so ad­dic­tive.’’

It was also de­struc­tive to the user and ev­ery­one around them.

He cited one case in Cen­tral Otago where, by cross­ref­er­enc­ing bank records more than $60,000 had dis­ap­peared from the in­di­vid­ual’s ac­counts and sav­ings.

‘‘It could only be at­trib­uted to meth use and ad­dic­tion.’’

Det Sgt Shaw said dur­ing in­ves­ti­ga­tions re­lated to metham­phetamine it was com­mon to ask ‘‘why?’’

‘‘Peo­ple get into a [drug] scene, they think they can han­dle it recre­ation­ally, but sud­denly it is out of con­trol.

‘‘We sit with peo­ple dur­ing an in­ves­ti­ga­tion and say ‘how did you get on it mate?’ and they will say ‘it just took me over’.’’

While the pres­ence of metham­phetamine of­ten led to more wide­spread crime, that was some­thing the re­gion was not ex­pe­ri­enc­ing.

‘‘We have a rea­son­able abun­dance of jobs in Cen­tral Otago and to a de­gree peo­ple can fund it.’’ It was a fine line.

‘‘It [metham­phetamine] just pushes you over that line and you have se­ri­ous of­fend­ing driven by meth — we haven’t quite seen that here,’’ Det Sgt Shaw said.

Most deal­ers dealt with in Cen­tral Otago were also ‘‘their own best cus­tomers’’ and were deal­ing to feed their own habit.

That made them dif­fer­ent from high­end deal­ers, who dealt for the ‘‘huge mon­e­tary re­wards in­volved’’ rather than for a per­sonal high.

Firearms were also part of the mix, he said.

‘‘To­tally em­bed­ded with meth is firearms — it is the high­risk, high­re­ward nature of it.

‘‘Any­time we are do­ing an oper­a­tion at an ad­dress we go ap­pro­pri­ately equipped.’’

The way those op­er­a­tions were con­ducted was also dif­fer­ent from 20 years ago, when ev­ery­one from the dealer to the pro­curer was tar­geted — some­thing po­lice called ‘‘body count’’.

That ‘‘body count’’ could mean 60 to 80 peo­ple were ar­rested in a sin­gle oper­a­tion.

‘‘Now the fo­cus is to cut the head off the mon­ster.’’

Now the peo­ple iden­ti­fied as part of an in­ves­ti­ga­tion were dealt with dif­fer­ently by po­lice, the fo­cus hav­ing switched to ‘‘harm re­duc­tion’’.

‘‘Our mind­set has moved to harm re­duc­tion. They’ve cropped up as a user and we go to them and have a con­ver­sa­tion — go in and see what we can do to break the cy­cle.’’

That of­ten in­volved bring­ing other other agen­cies in to work on the harm re­duc­tion goal.

No meth labs had been dis­cov­ered in Cen­tral Otago for some time, but the trickle of the drug into the re­gion was turn­ing into a steady flow and the meth­ods of com­mu­ni­ca­tion for deal­ing it were be­com­ing in­creas­ingly so­phis­ti­cated.

The most re­cent po­lice oper­a­tion con­ducted by the Cen­tral Otago CIB led to a 31­year­old land­scape gar­dener ap­pear­ing in In­ver­cargill District Court on Tuesday, fol­low­ing a two­month in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the sup­ply of drugs in Wanaka.

He was ar­rested last Fri­day in Queen­stown.

The man was granted in­terim name sup­pres­sion and faces six charges, in­clud­ing pos­ses­sion and sup­ply of metham­phetamine and un­law­ful pos­ses­sion of a firearm.

He was re­manded on bail un­til his next ap­pear­ance on De­cem­ber 14, in the Queen­stown District Court.


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