FORGET cash, meat is the new currency used to buy drugs on the Border.
Top-quality cuts are being ripped off supermarket shelves to fund users’ addictions.
Wodonga police said eye fillets were the meat of choice to exchange for myriad drugs including ice, amphetamines and prescription medication.
Police raiding homes of suspected dealers have found freezers full of meat and one officer recalled a man who had two roast beefs stuffed down his pants at Coles in Wodonga about a year ago, to pay for his addiction.
“He claimed he bought them at another supermarket and he was just keeping them in his pants,” the officer said.
This was after the same officer had caught another man trying to steal a 34-centimetre television by sticking it down the front of his tracksuit pants.
It’s difficult to quantify how much meat can be exchanged for what kind and what quantity of drugs but investigators estimated two scotch fillets could be exchanged for a stick of cannabis while a roast beef could return two ecstasy tablets.
Detective Acting Sgt Andrew Leonard said police discovered the issue through interviews with suspected users and dealers.
“The people we’re arresting for it are people with acute drug habits,” he said.
Sgt Leonard said there’s been a gradual increase in exchanging meat for drugs during the past five years.
“It’s a worrying trend
we’d like to discourage,” he said.
He said it was not surprising because the exchange simply cut out the middle man — money.
“Dealers need to eat as well,” he said.
And the reality of addiction is that users, when they’re desperate enough, will exchange whatever they can for a hit.
Police have heard of sexual favours, cars, guns and even a pitbull puppy being exchanged for drugs.
Sgt Leonard said the meat for drugs issue was being felt mostly by major supermarkets on the Border, which were finding top-quality meat stolen from their shelves.
He said the supermarkets had beefed up security in response, with undercover operatives monitoring stores for potential shoplifters.
It was a good time to be a small butcher on the Border, with the traders escaping the trend.
Jeff Beazley from Beazley’s Meats in Wodonga said he was surprised to hear the lengths users were going to for a hit.
He said the glass display in small butchers made it difficult for anyone to steal meat.