better-data-need-on-ice-problemICE addiction is a regular feature of criminal court proceedings, even at the local Magistrates’ Courts in Korumburra and Wonthaggi, where it is implicated in a variety of offences including family violence, assaults, burglaries and theft.
We also know, from the published crime statistics for last year, that there was a 33.5 per cent increase in the detection of general drug offences in the Bass Coast Police District, with 243 offences recorded in this area alone, as police stepped up their drug enforcement activities.
And we are told by police that there was a significant increase in the quantity of methamphetamine (ice) seized here in 2013.
It’s enough to worry any law-abiding citizen, especially with what we hear anecdotally about the incidence of violent, risk-taking behaviour as a result of ice use, abuse and subsequent addiction.
But how widespread is the use of ice in the community?
What exactly is the impact on law and order?
What is being done to combat its manufacture, distribution and use?
Where is the community education?
And what is being done to treat and support those caught by what we are told is the most addictive and harmful substance ever to arrive on the drug scene?
The thing that is lacking is a comprehensive report on the scope of the problem and a plan to beat and treat it.
Hopefully an inquiry launched by the Victorian Parliament last year “into the supply and use of methamphetamines, particularly ice, in Victoria”, which has been referred to the Law Reform, Drugs and Crime Prevention Committee, will get to the bottom of it.
Surely, though, this is a national problem that should be coordinated at a national level.
The report is due to be tabled in State Parliament no later than August 31, 2014 and as a community we will be looking for that report to be released ASAP, with a government response well before the November State Election.
Although the date for submissions closed last November, this community will still have an opportunity to express its concern and hear some up-to-date details about the problem if they attend a free community forum at the Wonthaggi Workmen’s Club this Wednesday (tomorrow) at 6pm.
Although the session will not be officially part of the round of public meetings organised in conjunction with the Parliamentary Inquiry, it will not be ignored given that some of the key figures in the community-driven response will be at the local session, including Gippsland’s most senior magistrate, Clive Alsop.
Two points are worth making on the subject; alcohol abuse is still the most damaging substance abuse issue in the Australian community and should not be sidelined by the ice debate.
And, harsher penalties, on their own, will not be enough to deal with the ice epidemic.
In fact, the State’s prison system is already headed for catastrophe when the option of suspended sentences is phased out for political point-scoring purposes in June this year.
The point is, there’s rarely a quick fix for complex problems like these and our political representatives need not insult our intelligence further by trying to produce one.
It would also be refreshing if both sides of politics could agree on a course of action.

Sentinel-Times Comment