DRUGS are driving an increase in crime across the region.
The latest Victoria Police crime statistics show a 55.9 per cent spike in drug-related crimes across the south-west.
Released this week, the 2013 report stated drug offences in the region had jumped from 136 in 2012 to 212 last year, while most other crimes showed little variance.
While the sharp jump appears alarming, Warrnambool’s Inspector Kevin Archer said the figure reflected the number of people being charged and the effectiveness of police in targeting drug offenders.
“The substantial increase in drug offences, 55.9 per cent, is attributable to the good work being done by the Warrnambool Divisional Response Unit, which has been targeting drug users and suppliers,” Inspector Archer said.
Despite a 94 per cent increase in drug offences, the Southern Grampians Police Service Area’s overall crime rate was again among the lowest in the state.
Acting Inspector Steve Thompson said on a comparative basis, the municipality’s reported crime contributed to just one per cent of the state’s total reported crime.
“Overall we have experienced a 14.1 per cent increase in reported crime for the period,” he said.
“The increase is driven primarily by a 94 per cent increase in drug offences, 20 per cent increase in crimes against the person and a 54.2 per cent increase in theft from motor vehicle offences.
“Offsetting these increases are significant reductions in both residential and commercial burglaries.
“In relation to the increase in drug offences, this is largely an enforcement-driven statistic. As we have done during previous reporting periods, we continue to commit resources to maintain a focus on implementing strategies to reduce drug related harm.”
Inspector Archer said while Warrnambool also experienced a rise in reports of violent crime, most had been solved within the Warrnambool Police Local Area Command, which incorporates the Warrnambool City, Moyne and Corangamite municipal areas.
“Crimes against the person have seen a 6.1 per cent increase,” he said.
“Family violence continues to be a contributing factor. However, non-family violence assaults have seen an 11.7 per cent increase.
“There is no firm pattern for these assaults, but intelligence suggests that they are attributable to assaults on police members and street assaults.
“It is worth noting that 75 per cent of these reported assaults are solved. We will continue to focus on non-family violence assaults and work with our analysts to identify patterns and work on reducing these incidents.”
He said a decrease in property crimes could be attributed to police patrol strategies.
“Property crimes have seen a substantial decrease, and it is particularly pleasing to see our focus on identifying at-risk areas and improving patrols, combined with the arrest of recidivist offenders for burglaries, are having a positive effect.”