Pubdate: Sat, 19, Sep 1998
Source: Advertiser, The (Australia)

The Police Commissioner, Mr Hyde, cannot, in principle, be faulted for his
decision to tell his people to attack street-level heroin dealing.

The question - a most serious question - is how police propose to go about
it? Anyone with the slightest direct knowledge of heroin addiction as it
happens in the South Australia of 1998 will be aware of simple, brutal
truths which politicians and police usually choose to ignore.  The jails are
filled with addicts. We are incapable of keeping drugs out of our jails let
alone off our streets.

Addicts commit crimes because of their addiction.

Too many also deal to fund their addiction.

Deal or steal, that is the daily reality for many. This is no bleeding heart
plea for a be nice-to-little-dealers week. But nothing would be easier for
SA police than to rack up their drug-arrest statistics by pulling in a
pathetic band of petty dealers.

What of the wholesalers and what of the importers?

Are police checking big gambling outlets to monitor big - really big -
gamblers and then alerting tax authorities to make highly pertinent
inquiries about where the money came from? The big wholesalers are known by

What is being done about them?

A street-level campaign has merit.

But to people familiar with the length and depth of this problem - among
whom we count Mr Hyde - any attack on what has become one of the nation's
most serious social ills will only carry conviction if convictions are
sought above retail level.

Also, however high-minded Mr Hyde and his senior circle may be, will his
officers at literal street level be careful to distinguish between victim
user and exploiting dealer?

In short, do we have from Mr Hyde today's headlines and reflexive approval
from the hardliners in his constituency or a sophisticated response to a
situation which is as much a health as a crime issue?

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Checked-by: Rolf Ernst