Reducing meth best served by treatment

By David Kavanagh | posted on August 1, 2019

A MANAGER of a leading drug treatment agency has suggested the funds spent on a recently launched police meth-busting van for the Great Southern could have been better used on treatment and prevention.

Palmerston Great Southern’s Ben Headlam said while he was not opposed to police working to reduce the supply of meth coming into Albany and other towns, enforcement strategies would not work in isolation.

The hi-tech vehicle took to the roads last week and comes equipped with an X-ray machine valued at almost $80,000 and TruNarc onsite drug testing capabilities that can identify substances almost instantaneously.

It joins a fleet of two other police vans currently operating in the Kimberley and Goldfields.

“The most effective way to reduce the amount of meth that’s on our streets is not necessarily all about enforcement, it’s about treatment and preventing people from becoming hooked on meth,” Mr Headlam said.

“As much as 80 per cent of people who are dealing methamphetamine are doing so to support their own addiction.

“You treat a dealer and you remove a dealer … supply reduction must be balanced with demand reduction as well.”

According to Mr Headlam, while data indicates the number of meth users around the country is decreasing, people who are using have been using for a longer period and are using more and higher purity forms of the drug.

He described the mission to stem the flow of meth in the region as a “constant game of cat and mouse” and said he did not expect the van to make much of an impact.

“They likely will have some early successes but if history tells us anything, the market hates a vacuum and people will adapt and find ways around it,” he said.

“We’re not talking about massive multi-million dollar hauls coming in one load, we’re talking about numbers of users bringing in supply for a small number of people and taking it in turns in a group to do those runs.

“The van can only be in one place at one time … it’s quite likely those main arterial routes will change.”

Great Southern Superintendent Ian Clarke described the vehicle as a means of a making a “significant difference” halting the flow of meth on Great Southern highways and byways.

“In regional Australia, we tend to do the best with what we’ve got and this provides us a great additional capability around emergency management and response, but also education too,” he said.

“It will roll out to events across the region to help us in that discussion in the community around things like drugs.”

Mr Clarke added that while the van increased police drug enforcement abilities, support from the community was still important.

He said police relied on members of the public to report suspicious activity and pass on information that might help hinder the ability of criminals to move drugs across the region.

“Ultimately it’s going to take all of us to have a decent impact on the meth trade,” he said.

The meth van was manufactured in Western Australia using funds dedicated to combating meth.
Figures from the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission’s seventh National Wastewater Drug Monitoring Program report released in June suggest WA continues to have the highest average rates of regional methylamphetamine consumption in Australia.