Pubdate: Tue, 13 May 2008
Source: Timaru Herald (New Zealand)
Copyright: 2008 Timaru Herald
Bookmark: (Methamphetamine)


John Key has unequivocally signalled the National Party's concern
about the swathe that pure methamphetamine, commonly known as "P", has
cut through New Zealand society in recent years, and its determination
to turn that situation around.

Speaking at a regional conference in Christchurch at the weekend, he
issued a warning to dealers and manufacturers of the drug and "every
gang involved in the P trade", saying "National will not put up with
your criminal activity".

It's good to know that the Opposition, which has polled extremely well
for some time, is deeply concerned. The role of P cannot be
underestimated. It's a drug that has affected all layers of society
and there are many high profile cases relating to the drug, from the
murder of Wairarapa schoolgirl Coral Burrows by her mother's
P-addicted partner to the recent case of Paul Holmes' adopted
daughter, Millie Elder, who became addicted to P.

Law and order issues are invariably high on the list of those that
concern voters when an election is approaching, and many voters will
welcome an unwavering stand on such an important facet of the law and
order picture.

But at the end of the day, National is a political party. The P issue
is one first and foremost for the police, to a degree for the
communities in which its devastating effects are played out, and for
the courts to deal with.

Mr Key clearly recognises the role of the police in this situation, in
promising them increased powers of surveillance over gangs and greater
authority to destroy gang fortifications, but neither measure suggests
itself as a surefire way of bringing a growing problem under control.

Prime Minister Helen Clark is right when she suggests achieving a
turnaround in a major problem area like this one is easier said than
done. "It's very easy for opposition parties to stand up and make
speeches about it, it's harder to actually get the impact," adding
that it was possible to pass well-intentioned laws, only for them to
have little effect.

Miss Clark said Labour had attempted to put "stronger powers into the
laws" in recent years and to get tougher on organised crime. That was
an apparent reference to last month's announcement that the Serious
Fraud Office would be amalgamated into the police and an Organised and
Financial Crime Agency established. The new body comes into effect
from July, so the concept is yet to be tested.

Ultimately, the ability to combat P-related crime rests primarily with
the police, who can't be everywhere. That makes it a question of
resources, and if more are to be expended in the fight against P, that
means less applied elsewhere. It's good to know, as the election
approaches, that there is real concern about P, but no party has a
magic formula to combat it. 
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MAP posted-by: Richard Lake