Drug of­fences down on past years

The Cobram Courier - - NEWS - By James Ben­nett

Drug-re­lated of­fences de­tected by NSW and Vic­to­rian po­lice dur­ing Op­er­a­tion Straw­berry Fields dropped com­pared to last year, but were still too high, ac­cord­ing to one of the re­gion’s top po­lice of­fi­cers.

NSW Po­lice Mur­ray River po­lice In­spec­tor Paul Huggett con­firmed there was a re­duc­tion in drug de­tec­tions from last year, de­spite the crowd in­creas­ing from 6500 to 8000 year-on-year.

Insp Huggett said NSW Po­lice fig­ures showed 45 driv­ers were de­tected with drugs be­tween the Thurs­day and Mon­day of the event, which was 25 lower than last year.

He said 17 peo­ple were ar­rested as part of the op­er­a­tion, 14 oth­ers charged and two charged with drink-driv­ing.

Six cau­tions and 19 in­fringe­ment no­tices were is­sued and 36 field court at­ten­dance no­ticed we handed out.

Vic­to­ria Po­lice de­tected 60 driv­ers with drugs in their sys­tem, 12 fewer than last year.

Insp Huggett said the sheer size of the event raised some con­cerns for po­lice, but over­all be­hav­iour was good.

‘‘It’s a sig­nif­i­cant num­ber of peo­ple, but there were no ma­jor in­ci­dents or acts of vi­o­lence at the site to re­port.’’

Straw­berry Fields fes­ti­val­go­ers were faced with a large po­lice pres­ence sur­round­ing the fes­ti­val site.

Po­lice set up a road­block in Koonoomoo, with drug bus staff, po­lice mem­bers and high­way pa­trol of­fi­cers mak­ing sure peo­ple were safe to drive from the event.

Dozens of po­lice were on a side road, across from The Big Straw­berry, breath and drug test­ing driv­ers, us­ing num­ber plate recog­ni­tion and mak­ing sure ve­hi­cles were road­wor­thy.

‘‘Our aim is to re­duce road fa­tal­i­ties and make it a safer en­vi­ron­ment for other road users,’’ Co­bram po­lice Sergeant David Young said.

‘‘Any of­fence is too many, so we’re re­ally try­ing to get through to the mo­torists that it’s fan­tas­tic to go out and en­joy your­self but also be safe when you’re try­ing to get home.’’

On the fi­nal day of the op­er­a­tion in Vic­to­ria, eight peo­ple were caught drink-driv­ing, while about 400 driv­ers were caught for other traf­fic of­fences in Vic­to­ria.

Straw­berry Fields man­age­ment thanked Vic­to­rian and NSW po­lice for their ef­forts across the week­end.

‘‘Both the road op­er­a­tion and the user pays pres­ence within the event are im­por­tant for pro­tect­ing the safety of our pa­trons and broader com­mu­nity,’’ Straw­berry Fields Fes­ti­val direc­tor Tara Ben­ney said.

‘‘While we are al­ways dis­ap­pointed to see some pa­trons make poor de­ci­sions, we are pleased to see the statis­tics down rel­a­tive to the over­all ca­pac­ity of the event,’’ she said.

Co­bram po­lice Sergeant David Young

Checks: Po­lice tested fes­ti­val­go­ers for drug and drink driv­ing.

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