Police in the Moree district are calling for a significant increase in the number of police officers dedicated to dealing with the district’s ice epidemic, which is destroying a generation of children and tearing families apart.
The Police Association of NSW on Monday released a list of crystal-meth regional hot-spots – of which Moree is one – and is calling for an additional 1185 police in Police Districts and Commands across the state.
The Association is also calling for an additional 114 police designated to dedicated units to focus on interrupting the supply of the drug.
Police Association representative Rod Sheraton said that they are calling for an additional 18 police officers in Moree.
“Every police officer knows how all-pervasive ice has become,” he said.
“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.
“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 out streets.
“That’s why we need additional police on our front line in Moree – to deal with the hold ice has taken in our community.”
Police Association of NSW Moree branch member Jarrod Cutler said the drug doesn’t discriminate, with police seeing not only members of Moree’s indigenous community using it but blue collar workers and children as young as 10.
“We see it on the streets - kids as young as 10 to 15 are users,” he said.
“It’s probably cheap, it’s becoming too cheap and easy for bored kids to get their hands on and once they’re on it, they’re addicted. It just rolls on, it’s a vicious cycle.”
Mr Cutler said much of the crime issues in Moree, such as domestic violence and break-ins, are linked to ice use.
“Break and enters are occuring because one, they’ve got no money and need money to get a hit,” he said.
“That’s when break and enters, stealing occurs. Items are flogged off for a bit of money to support the habit. It’s a vicious cycle. It goes around and around.
With only one police car rostered on in Moree at night, depending on the circumstances, Mr Cutler said a significant strain is placed on police resources when they have to deal with drug-affected people and the crime associated with ice.
“It takes away that general duties car for sometime,” he said.
“Our frontline police are very understaffed and fighting an uphill battle.
“I’ve had injuries from dealing with people on ice. They feel like a superhero on it, their strength is different. We get injured and again, that puts us down.
“If we’re able to get more police officers here and run a second car constantly day and night, our groups can assist running operations to counter and try to tackle the problem and take out the supply.”
Mr Sheraton believes there also needs to be a doubling of police numbers in the Regional Enforcement Squads designed to disrupt and detect the manufacturers and suppliers of this drug, with an extra 72 officers in regional NSW and 42 additional officers in the Sydney metropolitan area.
“In our area, we’re calling for an additional five police in our Regional Enforcement Squad,” he said.
“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.
“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 Moree 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.”
The call for dedicated ice officers is part of the ‘Back the Blue’ campaign for 2500 extra police across NSW.
Rod Sheraton is calling on the local community to support the call for more police by signing the petition at www.pansw.org.au.
“This really is about our local community here in Moree. We need the whole community to back our campaign for more police,” he said.