Australian Institute of Criminology

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Widespread drug-use among arrested poses policing challenges

Media Release

11 May 2000

"Almost three-quarters of people detained by police test positive to illegal drugs," Dr Adam Graycar, Director of the Australian Institute of Criminology, told the Australian National Council on Drugs in Darwin today.

Dr Graycar was discussing findings from the Institute's major national project, Drug Use Monitoring in Australia (DUMA).

DUMA uses voluntary urine samples and questionnaires to gather information on drug use and crime from those detained by police around Australia.

The report examines the drug use of people detained for a wide range of crimes.

"These findings raise significant police practice and duty of care issues. Police need to be aware of the high level of drug use among those they arrest", Dr Graycar said.

Seventy per cent of males detained for a violent offence tested positive to an illicit drug. And 86 per cent of males detained for a property offence tested positive to an illicit drug - half of them to opiates.

"Not only does this report present a striking picture of the strong link between criminal activity and illicit drug use, in particular it demonstrates a definite link between property offending and use of opiates", Dr Graycar said.

DUMA is an important tool used by police to quickly identify drug-use patterns in their area at any given time.

In Bankstown, NSW, 78 per cent of those detained for a property crime tested positive to opiates, while in Southport, Queensland, 32 per cent tested positive.

The report also found that those with an established criminal career were more likely to test positive to an illicit substance than those who did not have an established criminal career.