DRUG crime across the south-west has soared by 100 per cent, with crystal methamphetamine blamed for the massive increase.
The latest statistics for the Warrnambool police area, which covers the city, Moyne and Corangamite shires, show increased assaults, car thefts and family violence offences and an overall rise of 12 per cent in all crimes.
But the biggest jump came from drug offences, which doubled from 120 to 240 over the past two financial years.
Warrnambool police Super-intendent Don Downes said a surge in ice-related offences was the driving factor.
“We have seen a significant increase in trafficking offences ... it comes across the border from Mount Gambier but it also comes from Geelong, Melbourne and other regional cities,” he said.
Superintendent Downes said in response Warrnambool now had a dedicated drugs taskforce.
“It’s been running for 12 months. We particularly focus on amphetamine-type substances coming into our community.”
He said more drug arrests had led to fewer offences against property.
“We see it as a good story,” he said, adding that the Southern Grampians police area would also receive a taskforce soon.
All types of crimes increased except burglary, which remained steady, and theft from motor vehicles, which fell almost 30 per cent.
Assaults, including family violence, jumped 11 per cent.
Acting Inspector Steve Thomson said a dedicated unit to support domestic violence victims had been established and repeat offenders would be a particular target in the next 12 months. Labor yesterday leapt on the figures in Premier Denis Napthine’s South West Coast electorate.
The Premier hit back saying Labor’s 11 years in office had been “soft on crime”.
“Labor has continually opposed tougher sentences for criminals in this state ... we’ve had Labor criticise us for building more prisons,” Dr Napthine said.
“They’ve been trying to play catch-up with our tougher sentencing for drug offences.”
He said the Coalition had pushed for a parliamentary inquiry into the supply of crystal methamphetamine, which sat at Warrnambool in March and other parts of the state.
“That report will be released to Parliament next week,” Dr Napthine said. The Coalition had also recruited an extra 1700 police officers and established drug taskforces.
Labor police spokesman Wade Noonan said the figures showed the state’s drug problem was at its worst in the south-west.
“It’s particularly devastating to see that in Warrnambool and the south-west the percentage of drug offences has increased by 100 per cent ... if it’s happening in the Premier’s own backyard it doesn’t send a good message to the rest of Victoria,” Mr Noonan said.
The opposition yesterday released it’s policy to tackle the ice scourge, which includes harsher sentences and $15 million for more drug and booze buses.
It would also spend another $500,000 on community groups to hold forums and formulate local action plans. “It would be deluded to suggest that there isn’t an ongoing flow of drugs into regional Victoria,” Mr Noonan said.
Labor would also introduce four new offences, including penalties for trafficking ice to school students, publishing or possessing instructions to manufacture ice and allowing use of premises for its manufacture or trafficking.
Meanwhile, police have urged greater caution from farmers after a 32.8 per cent increase in vehicle theft, driven largely by stolen quad bikes.