Pubdate: Mon, 26 Mar 2001
Source: Sydney Morning Herald (Australia)
Copyright: 2001 The Sydney Morning Herald
Contact:  GPO Box 3771, Sydney NSW 2001
Fax: 61-(0)2-9282 3492
Author: Linda Doherty


International tourists, backpackers and pensioners are feeling the cold, 
wet nose of the law as police use Olympic sniffer dogs as their latest 
drug-detection weapon.

In the past two months drug dogs have searched Sydney's Oxford Street 
hotels and dance clubs, been used in street sweeps in Newtown, Bondi, 
Coogee and Byron Bay and worked at the Happy Valley dance party in Appin, 
south-west of Sydney.

In the latest use of the labradors in Byron Bay two weeks ago, 55 people 
were arrested and 30 cautioned for possessing small amounts of cannabis.

Byron Bay-based Greens MP Mr Ian Cohen said young people were pulled out of 
Internet cafes during the operation.

"The Government's legislation on drugs was not meant to bust kids with a 
joint in their pocket," he said.

Tweed Heads police inspector Greg Carey said the detection of illicit drugs 
by dogs was new to the service since the Olympics.

City East Region Commander Inspector Donald Graham said police were 
conducting "an ongoing operation" in Sydney using dogs to target drugs.

"If the dogs indicate to their handlers they can smell an illicit substance 
a search is conducted," he said.

The commander of the NSW Police Dog Unit, Inspector Peter Crumblin, said 
drug-detection dogs had been used since 1979, but as a "result of 
resourcing for the Olympics", more opportunities had been identified to use 
the dogs. The police received 30 extra dogs for the Olympics.

But complaints have been received by politicians, the NSW Council for Civil 
Liberties and the Redfern Legal Centre from tourists searched in Oxford St 
before last month's Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras and from backpackers in 
Byron Bay. Fliers this week appeared in Byron Bay saying "Is the KGB 
invading Byron?"

Newtown has also been targeted several times in the past month.

Mr Frank Aitchinson, 70, a pensioner, was fined $250 for possessing 24 
grams of cannabis. He said the drugs belonged to his partner who has a 
brain tumour.
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