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Enforcement Saves Billions In Reduced Drug Harm

Enforcement Saves Billions In Reduced Drug Harm
New Zealand Police National News Release
11:13am 24 June 2008

Drug enforcement activity by Police and other agencies is saving billions of dollars by reducing illicit drug related harm.

Research commissioned by NZ Police shows that illicit drug seizures in 2006 potentially avoided $485 million of drug harm.

The research also showed Illicit drug use in 2006 caused an estimated $1.3 billion worth of social costs.

National Crime Manger, Detective Superintendent Win van der Velde says seizures of illicit drugs between 2000 and 2006 saved $3.67 billion.

Supt van der Velde says the Drug Harm Index has been designed to help Police and other agencies to concentrate resources in areas where greater harm is being caused by illicit drugs.

Business and Economic Research Limited (BERL) has developed an index of the social harm caused by illicit drug consumption in New Zealand. Like models in Australia and Great Britain, it highlights the economic costs of the social harms drugs have on New Zealand society.

"This index holds the potential for Police to become more targeted and responsive to areas of crime where greater harm occurs," says Win.

"The 'harms' related to drug use include a wide range of tangible costs such as crime, lost work output, health service use and other diverted resources. It also includes psychological, or intangible, costs such as reduced quality or length of life.

"Police interrupting supply and reducing consumption of illicit drugs will contribute significantly to reducing drug harm."

The Drug Harm Index means Police can discuss drug seizures in terms of how much harm has been prevented to society instead of just talking about the drug's street value.

Over time, the index will enable Police to see what impact it's making on drug-related crime.

It will also enable Police to understand the nature of drug-related issues in New Zealand in an international context and use it as an estimation tool.

"For example, as a proportion of total harm, stimulants in New Zealand cause almost three times as much harm, while opioids and cannabis cause just over a half to three quarters of the harm in Australia," says Win.

"Police will be able to quantify the amount of harm saved with the use of the Drug Harm Index. It will help reinforce the value of Police enforcement activity and the work with our partner agencies."

The tool will add to the work already being carried out by the National Clandestine Laboratory (Clan Lab) Response Team, and the National Cannabis and Crime Operation which targets commercial cultivation and distribution of cannabis during the growing season.

In the 2006/07 operation, approximately 100,000 plants were destroyed, over 120 firearms seized and more than $170,000 worth of stolen property recovered.

More recently, Operation Leo saw a series of Police raids result in 55 arrests with people charged with offences involving the manufacture and distribution of amphetamine type substances, $200,000 in cash and $500,000 of methamphetamine and cannabis recovered. A number of assets including vehicles and motorcycles were seized under the Proceeds of Crime.

"These are all part of our efforts to target organised crime groups and reduce the amount of drugs which cause harm in our communities and result in an enormous cost to New Zealand," Win says.

The full Drug Harm Index report can be found at www.berl.co.nz


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