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Foundation Comments on Annual Crime Statistics

26 August 2004

Drug Foundation Comments on Annual Crime Statistics

The New Zealand Drug Foundation has mixed views about the drug and alcohol crime statistics released today by the Police Commissioner.

“The drug crime statistics show good results from the efforts the Police have made on cannabis and amphetamines. However, we’re very concerned about a changing focus on alcohol,” said Drug Foundation executive director Ross Bell.

Police report that the 29 per cent increase in non-cannabis drug offences is a result of increased manufacture and use of amphetamine type substances as well as a strong Police focus on those drugs.

“While Police efforts are mainly focussed on controlling the supply of synthetic drugs such as methamphetamine, we are pleased they recognise their role in working to reduce the harm of these drugs. A good example of this is their pilot scheme of referring arrestees to counselling and treatment agencies.

“It appears the Police are also taking a harm reduction approach to cannabis. Recorded offences against cannabis have decreased from last year by over 11 percent. While not stated in the statistics summary, the decrease is most likely explained by a greater use of diversion for minor cannabis offences. If this is so, the Drug Foundation believes there is a case for making warning and diversion procedures more transparent, backed by the development of education, counselling and treatment services,” Ross Bell said.

The statistics on alcohol have been reclassified, with liquor ban breaches (totalling over 5,000) now being recorded in the Sale of Liquor Act category. Adjusting for this, offences against the Sale of Liquor Act have decreased significantly by over 35 per cent.

“It is unlikely there’s been a sudden and miraculous reduction in Liquor Act offences. Instead, these numbers tell us Police are putting greater effort and resources towards policing local liquor bans at the expense of enforcing the sale and supply of alcohol.

“The Drug Foundation has always been concerned about the lack of resources given to enforcing the Sale of Liquor Act. In 1999 the country was promised greater enforcement of liquor laws to compensate for the anticipated harm from lowering the drinking age. This did not happen then, so it is very worrying to see limited resources being diverted elsewhere now,” said Ross Bell.

ENDS

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