Source: Sydney Morning Herald (Australia)
Pubdate:  Wed 22 Jul 1998
Section: Page 1
Author: Greg Bearup


Crime would continue to soar in Australia until there were no new
approaches to attack the number of heroin users, according to the NSW
Police Commissioner, Mr Peter Ryan.

But governments would not introduce policies that might work, such as
effective treatment of heroin addicts, for fear of being seen as soft,
he said.

In an interview with the Herald yesterday, Mr Ryan said there was a
need for government to start investing in meaningful and effective
treatment programs for heroin addicts to reduce heroin-related crime.

"More police on the beat won't solve the drug dependency problem," he
said. "All it will do is move people around. It is like trying to
deprive people of water they will simply find another source."

The Australian Bureau of Statistics released figures last week which
showed massive increases in heroin-related crimes such as armed
robberies, break and enters and theft. This was followed by a study
which showed users stole up to $1.6 billion dollars to fund their habits.

"There is a fear by community leaders to say what they think in terms
of the drug problem because if you are trying to do something about
the cause, trying to treat the drug users and break the crime cycle
then you are accused of being soft. It is not soft - it is effective
policing and an attack on the root cause, which is drugs.

"We have tried everything else. We have tried massive operations to
crack down on them [drug dealers] and we are hitting the major
importers as hard as we can but we know we are only getting a small
amount of the drugs that are coming through."

Mr Ryan said that 60 to 70 per cent of crime in NSW was committed by
people robbing or stealing to buy drugs or by people on drugs at the

"We have medical needs that need to be addressed and that is expensive
for society but what is more expensive is a $1.6 billion habit of
house breaking and thieving," he said.

He "liked the look" of the Victorian model of warnings for minor drug
offenders and he would watch with interest trials overseas of drug
courts where drug offenders were required to go into treatment or face

Improvements still needed to be made by law enforcement bodies,
especially to stopping imports of drugs.

But while law enforcement would continue the fight, there needed to be
an attack from the other end.

"I remember listening to a drug user one day who said: 'Look we are
not unintelligent, stupid, illiterate people, but we are treated like
that. I am an articulate and educated person who just wants to get off
the damn drug and I need some help. I am stealing and thieving because
I have a $1,000 a day habit.' Now we have got to find a way of getting
that person off drugs and into a program that is going to rehabilitate

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Checked-by: "Rich O'Grady"