Policeman says community is not winning the struggle against drug and alcohol addiction

ONE of Warrnambool’s longest serving police officers says the community is not winning the so-called war on drugs and a broader approach is needed to address drug and alcohol addiction.

Senior Sergeant Shane Keogh said the drug issue was not simply a crime problem but also a medical and social welfare problem.

According to the Crime Statistics Agency, drug offences in the Warrnambool municipality almost tripled from 2008 with 121 offences and 324 in 2017. Drug use and possession increased from 92 to 259.

Senior Sergeant Keogh said although drug prevention and policing had been effective, it had not been enough to address the issue.

“We’re not winning the struggle of people using drugs,” he said. “Every generation seems to find a new drug, right from the ’60s to the present day. “The persistent one through all of that is alcohol. We need some new approach on how to deal with it.

“Ninety-nine per cent of the people I’ve dealt with who are involved in drugs or have some addiction... they all express a desire that if they could get off it they’d get off it. How we’re doing it at the moment without residential rehabilitation – it’s not working. I think the next step we need to go to as a community is residential rehabilitation.

“I’m a member of the board of Western Region Alcohol and other Drug Centre (WRAD) and I see most of our issues in the community is more around alcohol.”

Senior Sergeant Keogh said although there was an issue with ice in the community, the residential rehabilitation facility wasn’t aimed solely at methamphetamine users. “It’s aimed at those who want to get off the drugs, including those addicted to pharmaceutical drugs, illegal drugs and alcohol,” he said.

He said a residential rehabilitation facility could help break the cycle of drug and alcohol addiction, which would benefit the whole community.

“What we’ve got to do is try and break the cycle,” he said. “The first time they get caught using it and they want to give up... here’s an opportunity to go to residential rehabilitation.

“From being a copper in the mid and late ’80s and seeing Odyssey House come into play and treatment given to people with addictions, my views on people who used drugs in those days is different to today. Whether that’s just a mature process or whatever, but residential rehab seems to work on 35 per cent of those that go to it.

“And in the end if you’ve got 20 people there every two months, if half get through over a whole year then the community is in a better place.

“We’ve got to give people the opportunity and support to get into a residential rehabilitation.” Senior Sergeant Keogh said anyone with any information on drug dealing within the community should contact CrimeStoppers. He said anyone who had information on people using drugs and who wanted help to contact their local GP or WRAD.