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Drugs and crime - first results from new survey

Media Release

04 May 2000

Media release from Senator, the Hon Amanda Vanstone, Minister for Justice and Customs

A new report from the Australian Institute of Criminology released today by Senator Vanstone, Minister for Justice and Customs, demonstrates the links between illicit drug use and crime.

Drug Use Monitoring Australia (DUMA) uses urine samples and questionnaires to gather information on drug use and crime from people who are detained at police stations.

"For the first time in Australia we have hard quantitative data on drug-related crime within specific areas," Senator Vanstone said.

"The results confirm that there is a very strong link between opiate use and property crimes. Of those detainees whose most serious charge is a property offence, 43% tested positive for opiates."

"The link between illicit drugs and criminal offending is very strong for all crimes."

"The survey found very high levels of illicit drug use among people who are detained in police lock-ups for driving offences, crimes of violence and disorder offences. The link between illicit drug use and these crimes is a wake up call."

"Information was gathered from people detained at the Southport watchhouse in Queensland, the East Perth lockup in Western Australia, and the Parramatta and Bankstown police stations in New South Wales."

"In each area, three quarters of detainees had urine samples which tested positive to one or more illicit drugs. Cannabis was most often detected among detainees, with 62 per cent of men and 56 per cent of women returning a positive result. Overall opiates were the second most often detected drugs with 39 per cent of men and 22 per cent of women returning positive results."

"Involvement in selling illicit drugs is very high. Around one-third of the detainees said that they had sold illegal drugs for money at some point in their lives."

"Being detained by the police is not a once-off for many of the people surveyed. Half of all detainees reported that they have been arrested on a prior occasion in the past 12 months, and 17 per cent of all detainees report that they have served time in prison during the past 12 months."

"The survey also provides important information about local drug markets. We now know that there are enormous differences in the local drugs markets around the country. This intelligence is of great value to police."

"The two Sydney sites have almost double the rate of positive tests for opiates than the sites in Queensland and Western Australia. At Bankstown 48 per cent tested positive to opiates. At Parramatta 36 per cent tested positive to opiates."

"The Southport watchhouse in Queensland and East Perth lockup in Western Australia had much lower levels of opiate use but high positive results for cannabis."

"The first results from DUMA show the importance of monitoring actual drug use among detainees."

"In the future, DUMA will be used to give early warning of new drug trends and allow international comparisons. To date cocaine has rarely appeared among people detained in police lock-ups, though some cases have been found recently."

"DUMA is funded under the Federal Government's National Illicit Drug Strategy."