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South Pacific Police Join Forces to Combat Drugs

South Pacific Police Chiefs join forces to combat new drug threat

Police chiefs from the South Pacific have agreed to a coordinated effort to combat the threat posed by the increasing trade of amphetamine type stimulants (ATS) into the region.

This agreement is one of a number of initiatives to come out of a four day meeting of delegates from 21 member countries of the South Pacific Chiefs of Police Conference which concluded in Brisbane today.

Delegates at the Conference also finalised a four year strategic plan which establishes key law enforcement priorities for the region and action plans to achieve policing objectives through a collaborative approach.

Chairman of the 2003 Conference, Australian Federal Police Commissioner Mick Keelty, said the strategic plan would be used to drive law enforcement initiatives in relation to training, enhanced communication between police agencies and greater capacity to deal with emerging issues.

"In line with the theme of this year's conference "Terrorism - the wider law enforcement context", the strategic plan sets the framework to proactively tackle organised transnational crime, including terrorism, to ensure that South Pacific nations do not become transit points or safe havens for organised criminal activity," he said.

While there is no present intelligence indicating terrorism activity in the South Pacific Region, the Director of Terrorism Studies at the Australian National University Clive Williams told the Conference that terrorism networks were looking to expand their organisations by identifying regions where there was a degree of support for their ideologies. This provided terrorism groups with a potential recruitment ground and an environment where their activities can be carried out without attracting a high level of scrutiny.

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Another shared problem for South Pacific police jurisdictions is the potential for ATS trade to lead to major social and law and order problems within the community.

New Zealand Commissioner Rob Robinson told the Conference that international seizures of ATS in 2001 were 12 times larger than the number in 1991 and that most of this growth can be attributed to growing Asian markets.

He said domestic ATS markets already exist in some South Pacific countries and that the various links that many South Pacific countries have with Asia increases the opportunity for ATS to flow into the community.

Almost half of the 21 South Pacific jurisdictions present at the Conference are experiencing the affects of ATS substance abuse while the remaining nations anticipate ATS use reaching dangerous levels in the near future.

ATS abuse impacts heavily on society through increased crime, violence, policing costs and social services.

One of the greatest impacts is on the family with statistics showing that ATS abuse can be responsible for large proportions of domestic violence. The environment is also at risk with six kilos of highly toxic waste produced with every one kilo of ATS.

Delegates agreed to the development of a combined strategy which will address the issues of intelligence sharing, public awareness and drug prevention initiatives, training and assistance in relation to drug sampling and analyses and storage and disposal of illicit drugs.

Other issues discussed at the Conference included the development of a paper on the extent of transnational crime in the region and future trends, future directions of the Identity Fraud Register and the Sex Crimes Legislative Working Group.

The Conference will act on several recommendations to improve the forensic capacity of South Pacific countries to progress fingerprint evidence, criminal scene examination and illicit drug analyses.

Delegates also discussed the need to increase the percentage of women in some South Pacific jurisdictions and encourage the advancement of women to senior ranks in order to create police organisations which properly reflect the community.

Special Coordinator for the Regional Assistance Mission to the Solomon Islands Nick Warner provided the Conference with an overview of the challenges and successes in restoring law and order to the local community.

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