DRUG offences have skyrocketed in Wodonga in the past year and police and experts say it’s time for the community to discuss drug policy.
Victoria Police released crime statistics yesterday that show drug offences in Wodonga jumped 61 per cent in 2012-13 from the previous year.
There were 58 people arrested for cultivating, trafficking or manufacturing drugs, compared with 31 people the previous year and 157 people were found using or possessing drugs, up from 102 offenders.
The release came on the same day Wodonga police seized methamphetamine and cannabis from a home in Mayfair Drive.
Both Wodonga and Albury police agree drug offences are on the rise.
“The ice epidemic is a terrible thing that is messing up our young people, damaging a generation of young people,” Wodonga Detective Sen-Sgt Barry McIntosh said.
Albury police’s Inspector David Cottee said several covert operations had increased detection.
Meanwhile, Curtin University addictions coordinator Stephen Bright said drug offences would continue to climb.
“So how effective is this really in addressing the issue?” he asked.
“At the end of the day is what we’re doing working? Clearly it’s not. We’re seeing more offences and drug use is not decreasing.”
Insp Cottee said deregulating drugs was an option “worth investigating” and there was wide research that showed prohibition in other countries had not been as effective as was hoped.
“But we have to acknowledge alcohol is the biggest driver of social issues in our community and that is highly regulated,” he said.
“We will continue to pursue that (illegal drug trade) until such time there’s a change in policy.”
Sen-Sgt McIntosh said the community was not ready for legalising drugs.
“When you’ve got morphine-based drugs being abused by drug users as well it’s a different situation, we’ve got white drugs on a black market and we need to start locking that down,” he said.
“Let’s make it harder for legalised drugs to be abused and start working on the health issues that are making people go out and use drugs.”
Albury mental health and drug clinical leader Alan Fisher said about 60 new patients each month accessed their drug program, run through Murrumbidgee Health.
Mr Fisher said 60 per cent of these patients abused alcohol; most abused more than one substance and 75 per cent had a psychiatric condition.
He said abuse of prescription drugs needed to be dealt first.
“We are very, very concerned about the underground and very, very lucrative black market trading in prescription drugs and prescription fraud,” Mr Fisher said.