Drug offences down on past years
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.