In a small south-west town, where ancient oak trees litter the main street and 19th century buildings bleed with character, there's a tight-knit community recovering from the scourge of crystal meth.
Police say families in the grip of an ice addiction have resorted to stealing and causing harm to the community.
The group is small but its disruptive behaviour does not go unnoticed in a town with a population less than 2500.
The cold reality of the issue is evident in the Warrnambool Magistrates Court, where offenders face charges of drug trafficking, burglary, theft and affray, and the courtroom hears the echo of lawyers stating their client had, or has, an ice problem.
Last month a mother with a $1000-a-night ice habit was jailed after she left a trail of unpaid motel bills and assaulted a woman protecting her son from being robbed.
A 24-year-old was jailed for 18 months for a month-long crime spree that saw him steal and torch several cars, point a stolen gun at innocent victims and attempt to ram two police vehicles.
A man who attended court to support his drug-trafficking mother was asked to leave after he made vile threats towards his family.
And a troubled teenager was jailed after bashing a man with a metal bat, threatening two cyclists with a knife and stealing and torching cars in a night-long crime spree.
The perpetrators were all long-term Terang residents suffering from ice addictions. Their family and friends sat in the body of the court, some of whom were there in support of multiple offenders.
Terang police Sergeant Danny Brown said ice had become a leading driver of crime in his two-and-a-half years at the town's police station.
"We can't hide that because it's in the public domain," he said.
"It's in the court, it's in the paper and it's affecting the community. You see crimes relating to assaults, family violence and thefts and they all come back to that drug."
Leading Senior Constable Paul Marsland was stationed in Terang for more than a decade. He said ice was prevalent but there "wasn't a wide spread number of people committing the crimes".
"In Terang we have a small number of offenders and a couple of families in particular that are getting hooked on drugs and getting in trouble," he said.
"It's a very small number of people whose behaviours are very public and open. But they are also very targeted because police know their movements, their activities, their faces, their criminal history.
"We get a lot of return court appearances because they attract a lot of police attention. We are processing the people back through the system. In the larger towns, they don't stand out in their communities quite as broadly, so therefore they're not being presented to the courts as often."
Sergeant Brown said when drug problems stemmed from parents, it was harder to break the cycle.
"You see the mothers and sons, fathers and daughters, and brothers and sisters going through the same issues. They do drugs and they commit crimes. But when it stems from mum and dad, it's a cycle that the kids see and it just continues on," he said.
You see the mothers and sons, fathers and daughters, and brothers and sisters going through the same issues. They do drugs and they commit crimes.Sergeant Danny Brown
"There certainly isn't a quick fix to the issue. It's got to start with education, then it has to extend to people's values. There also has to be consequences that aren't your usual, traditional consequences.
"You can't just throw them in jail because they come out into an area like this, where it's only 16-hour policing. We've arrested a lot of offenders over the time I've been in the chair, and they get bailed back to their homes, back into those negative environments. It's almost setting them up to fail."
Leading Senior Constable Marsland said drug-related crime wasn't new but the widespread use of ice and the level of violence it created was.
"Ice is something that in the last three or four years has become really prevalent in this district," he said.
"(Sergeant Brown) and I go back to the early '90s in Footscray with the heroin epidemic and the scourge of that type of drug offending. We've seen this before but this time it's a very different drug spreading through the community.
"Heroin was a much bigger problem in those communities in regards to the number of offenders and users and the impact it was having. The difference was the heroin user would go to sleep. It wasn't in the public's face as much. There were used syringes and overdoses in the streets but ice winds people up and makes them a lot more visible and a lot more public, so it attracts a lot more fear.
"The heroin user would tend to do more residential burglaries prior to drug use, to get property to fund their purchase. But now the offending occurs after they've taken ice and they're just out of control in the community.
"The prevalence of drugs in a community will tend to have a direct impact on crime in that same community. Terang in recent times has been in the spotlight in terms of that fall out."
Sergeant Brown said when he first started his Terang post, known-offenders would walk the streets with a "real ownership of the town".
"The community would tend to cower a bit but we've come a long way to get the community to take control and take ownership of their town," he said.
"We all know who the small group of villains are. So when they leave the house, the phone lights up and we're able to address that anti-social behaviour.
"We also work really well with our neighbouring stations. If the offenders slip up and we aren't there, someone is. We have this 'all points of the compass' attack on this area. But it might move on. Camperdown could be tomorrow's Terang. They could all migrate down there and Terang might get a bit of a break but then Camperdown is under the hammer. It simply swaps around.
"But at the end of the day, this community is safe. I'm confident in saying that. A lot of hard work went on in 2018 and the town is now enjoying the benefits of that."
'Led astray by older, more experienced criminals'
Lawyer Ian Pugh says offenders are often led astray by more experienced criminals.
Mr Pugh has represented the people of Terang and surrounding districts since 2008. He said there was a clear connection between drug abuse and crime, as well as a person's association with older and more sophisticated criminals.
"You've got people supplying the drugs from Melbourne and Geelong and then you've got offenders who get caught up in the cycle of taking drugs, accumulating a debt and then having to go do burglaries and thefts in order to pay off that debt," he said.
"I believe that people should take responsibility for their own criminal actions but there is certainly a level of manipulation, where offenders are influenced by people further up the ladder.
"What I typically see is people being taken off the streets and imprisoned for minor-level drug trafficking. They stupidly think they can make a bit of money but they tend to get caught. The more organised criminals then just go off and find someone else, usually someone that owes that drug debt to begin with."
Mr Pugh said drug-fulled crime led to community fear and outrage.
"The people in Terang rightfully get angry when their cars are stolen and wrecked, or items of value they've worked hard for are stolen," he said.
"Offenders need to be punished but at the same time it needs to be balanced so that we can ensure we are doing our best to rehabilitate, particularly those who are addicted to ice."
Mr Pugh said supervision orders such as parole and community corrections were necessary to help offenders reintegrate into society.
"Reintegration can be difficult with long-term offenders because once you get into that cycle it's really hard to break out of it," he said.
I think if someone was genuinely trying to mend their ways, go down the path of reintegration and be a good citizen, fair-minded Terang people would really want to help them do that if they could.Ian Pugh
"I've had local businesses who have employed some of my clients, who have done a really good job in giving them work and giving them a second chance.
"Terang people are very community-minded, they do their best to try and help where they can.
"Of course they want to see offenders punished in a just way, they want crime reduced in their community which is quite understandable but I think if someone was genuinely trying to mend their ways, go down the path of reintegration and be a good citizen, fair-minded Terang people would really want to help them do that if they could.
"And if people are not happy with a particular sentence, they need to be involved in the process. I suggest they see their members of parliament and try to have an input into legislation."
'I have never thought of not running this business. I feel safe in this town.'
As last year's St Patrick's Day fires burned around Terang, opportunistic thieves broke into Bev Carroll's High Street coffee shop, stealing hundreds of dollars, including from cancer charity donation jars.
Ms Carroll said offenders had taken advantage of the town's power black out. They smashed through the back door and wall of the Latte on High cafe and stole hundreds of dollars from the business float, as well as two charity tins.
Ms Carroll said it was the first and only time her cafe had been targeted by thieves in 12 years. She said nearby businesses, including the Terang IGA and Reicha's Drapery, had been hit harder than her in the past.
"It happens when you don't expect it. Sometimes you might hear of one or two break-ins, then you won't hear of anything for a long time," she said.
"It's a nuisance, but you move on. Most of us run our businesses seven days a week. One week just goes into the other and suddenly 12 months has gone by.
"I have never thought of not running this business. I feel safe in this town. When things like this happen, everyone in the town is so supportive. It's amazing. I had people around me whose properties have been burned yet there were still people feeling sorry for me because I had been broken into.
"It was wonderful how everyone supported me but that's just what country people are like. There is always going to be a bit of drama in any town but I've lived here for 41 years. Terang is good, it's safe. I love the town."
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