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$39 million in Budget to fight meth, gangs


Hon Jim Anderton Chair of Ministerial Committee on Drug Policy
Hon Phil Goff Minister of Justice
Hon George Hawkins Minister of Police

17 May 2004 Budget 2004

$39 million in Budget to fight meth, gangs

The Government has allocated an additional $39 million in this year's Budget to tackle the methamphetamine trade and organised crime over the next four years, Justice Minister Phil Goff, Police Minister George Hawkins and Associate Health Minister Jim Anderton announced today.

Heading the initiatives are resources to ensure an effective crackdown on drug manufacturers. These include: A third 12-person Police 'clan lab' team; four chemical intelligence analysts, and the creation of a national supervisor position to coordinate Police meth operations.

Increased meth analysis work by Environmental Science and Research (ESR), as a result of recent recruitment, will be matched by additional funding of $17 million over four years. ESR is to hire a further six scientists and technicians by Christmas, including one scientist who will start next Monday, which will bring its meth analysis team to 18.

The National Interception Centre (NIC), which undertakes electronic intelligence aimed at organised crime and gang involvement in the drug trade, will see staff increase from 13 to 31.

A third six-person surveillance team plus additional technical support for the Auckland Metro Crimes Services group, which focuses on on-the-ground surveillance of gangs and trans-national organised crime. Three research projects into what underlies the phenomenon of meth abuse, and possible solutions, will also be funded.

"The additional clan lab team will help meet the projected national workload of investigations," Mr Hawkins said.

"ESR's meth analysis team has already increased from four staff to eight this year, and will reach 18 by Christmas. This recruitment will allow the growing number of cases to be dealt with, while current backlogs are cleared, and turnaround times are maintained.

"Extra staff will allow the NIC to carry out a greater number of simultaneous operations against organised crime, particularly against gangs involved in the manufacture and supply of meth.

"Data from the research will allow Police to take early action against drug threats when they first emerge. It will also provide a clearer picture of the effect of meth use on criminal behaviour, and how to counter it, and assist Police in guiding offenders into rehabilitation programmes," Mr Hawkins said.

Mr Goff said the initiatives were a further example of the government's commitment to making communities safer by ensuring Police had the capability to effectively target crime. "Substantial investment in policing over the last four years means there is now a record number of police and for the first time a record Police budget of over $1 billion. As a result, crime resolution rates are at their highest level since 1987, while the crime rate has fallen 13.8 percent since 1996," Mr Goff said.

"The government is also supporting Police with stronger legislation, such as the new DNA profiling laws that came into effect last month, which have greatly enhanced the Police's ability to apprehend and convict criminals.

"The Government is also developing a civil forfeiture regime that will be more effective than the current law at seizing criminal assets. We want to get every dollar we can off the Mr Bigs of the crime world; the people who make money out of other people's misery but keep themselves at arm's length from the actual offending.

"Stripping gangs and other organised crime groups of their assets will take the profit out of crime. Today's $39 million package will help ensure those responsible for pushing P are put behind bars," Mr Goff said.

“The initiatives announced today connect strongly with this Coalition Government’s war against drugs and the Progressive Party’s commitment for more funding in the drug area,” Mr Anderton said.

“The funding announced today is primarily aimed at reducing the supply of drugs, leading to more prosecutions and adding to earlier initiatives like the reclassification of methamphetamine as a Class A drug with its penalty of life imprisonment.

“This is but one direction of the Coalition government’s three-pronged approach against drug abuse with further funding announcements to be made, later this month, aimed at reducing demand for drugs and treating those affected.”

ENDS

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