Pubdate: Sun, 11 Feb 2001
Source: Sun-Herald (Australia)
Copyright: 2001 John Fairfax Holdings Ltd
Author: Eamonn Duff


A huge police crackdown on drugs rocked a dance music festival

The blitz, in which 38 people were arrested and hundreds searched
thoroughly, came at the Happy Valley Dance Festival in Sydney's

A 26-year-old Sydney man collapsed and died from an overdose at the
festival last year.

Campbelltown local area commander and operations supervisor
Superintendent Ben Feszczuk said the project proved that NSW police had
not adopted a soft approach to recreational drug use as some experts had
recently claimed.

"The public use of illicit drugs will not be tolerated," Superintendent
Feszczuk said.

"This weekend you have seen that we do mean business and we will be
doing everything within our power to stop it.

"If all these people want to continue breaking the law, that's fine, but
they'll just have to be prepared to cop the consequences."

Thirty police, 20 security staff and sniffer dogs were searching every
car as hundreds of revellers arrived at the picturesque Cataract Scout
Park near Appin on Friday night and yesterday morning.

Of the 38 arrested, four people were charged with supply and possession
offences, 13 received court summonses and 21 were handed official

Recovered substances included 8g of ecstasy powder, 53g of speed, 276g
of marijuana and an unspecified quantity of pills.

A Newcastle girl who was waiting for her boyfriend to finish giving his
particulars to police said a sniffer dog jumped through the back seat of
the car and uncovered their personal stash of cannabis.

"This is totally over the top," she said.

"We are hardly dealers. We were hurting nobody else and now the whole
weekend has started off on a bad foot, even before we've got in the
bloody place."

The festival was supposed to be the biggest in the event's 10-year
history with organisers assembling a vast array of contemporary,
progressive and experimental dance music.

Ninety DJs and bands were booked to perform across eight stages, with an
all-night open-air cinema just one of many attractions.

But by lunchtime yesterday only a third of last year's crowd had

A 22-year-old Newtown student who was cautioned for possession of an
ecstasy tablet said: "There was no need to punish those carrying small
quantities for their own personal use.

"There's a bad mood about the place.

"Nobody's dancing, people are just moping around. I've only just warned
a friend not to bother making the journey.

"He's better off in Sydney having his regular night out on the town."

Organisers were upset by police tactics.

A spokesperson said: "We paid for them to come here and work with us in
unity and instead they've ended up taking over and destroying the whole

"They were supposed to provide a presence and they've turned it around
completely. It's ruined."

But police said their approach was justified. Last year's event
attracted 6,000 people, of whom 5,000 were estimated to have taken
illegal substances.

The festival was rocked by 10 overdoses as well as the drug-related

Superintendent Feszczuk said: "I am surprised at the audacity of some of
these people.

"We warned drug use would not be tolerated and obviously many perceived
the warning to be hollow."
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