DENILIQUIN police say up to 50 young people will be arrested for drug use and supply in coming weeks as officers try to change a cultural shift in their town that has normalised drug taking.
Detective Insp Darren Cloake said among those arrested will be football players and former private school students from well-respected families, the sons and daughters of well-known local identities.
Insp Cloake said Deniliquin residents could no longer ignore the scourge consuming the town’s young people.
“This does not discriminate,” he said.
“It’s time to step up and say something and this needs to be a catalyst for education, rehabilitation and counselling.
“We need the community to come on board,” he said.
The arrests will be made by officers with Strike Force Kaneruka, which was formed in April to target alleged drug supply in Deniliquin.
The arrests began last Wednesday after a six-month investigation with 12 people arrested, aged between 22 and 56.
“I’m so proud of the efforts of the police here, especially the detectives,” Insp Cloake said.
“They do take ownership of the problems in town because ... they live here and have kids here.”
The arrests drew praise from residents, many who vocalised their opinions via Deniliquin police’s Facebook page with comments ranging from “Well done” to “This may have saved lives and children becoming addicts”.
“The community is very supportive of our stance on drugs, they’ve seen it as a long time coming,” Insp Cloake said.
He said taking amphetamines had become normalised for young people, not only in Deniliquin but across the country.
“Gone are the days that people grab a couple of beers,” Insp Cloake said.
“It seems to be a cultural acceptance of it.”
Insp Cloake said the acceptance was dangerous, with regular drug-taking proving to impact individuals’ mental health.
He said hospital staff in the district said presentations of drug-induced psychosis had doubled.
“Without people having the courage to say something, we will pay the price,” Insp Cloake said.
“This is the optimum time for families to sit down with their young children and start having a conversation.
“We are only part of the solution, it needs to come from the community itself.”
He said football club leaders in the region had approached police.
“It’s their opinion that there needs to be a cultural change and they will work with police in the future,” he said.