NEW statistics show Victoria has recorded a 32.31 per cent increase in drug crime since 2014.
In particular, the number of methamphetamine, or ‘ice’ offences recorded in Victoria has risen sharply, with an overall increase of 184 per cent state-wide.
In Horsham, 10 methamphetamine offences were recorded in 2014.
In 2015, 28 methamphetamine offences were recorded in Horsham, with 33 recorded last year, or a 17.86 per cent increase between 2015 and 2016 alone.
Member for Lowan and Shadow Minister for Mental Health Emma Kealy released the statistics, which she said showed the Horsham and Ararat communities were experiencing sky rocketing drug rates.
Ms Kealy said the crime rate in the Horsham police service area had jumped 19 per cent since December 2014, while the crime rate in Ararat had risen by 21 per cent. “Across Victoria, drug crime is out of control, increasing 14.5 per cent between 2015 and 2016,” she said.
“The state government believes we need tougher sentences for drug traffickers, a more effective rehabilitation system and better awareness campaigns for young people and the community.”
But Horsham acting Superintendent Gary Coombes said greater enforcement of drug crime across the Wimmera, and the state as a whole, was responsible for the increase.
He said since 2014, police had placed a greater emphasis on drug crime, including a range of initiatives to combat ice.
“We set up a divisional task force team in relation to primarily, the drug trade within the police service area and more broadly as well, with specific units focusing on crime,” he said.
“Generally, increased enforcement leads to results”.
Superintendent Coombes said the task force had had various incarnations since 2014 when ice use was becoming more prevalent.
He said there were links between the use of the drug ice and other crime, including property crime.
“Quite often when we execute warrants we also find other drugs, including cannabis,” he said.
“Increased enforcement in turn increases our statistics, and while that might look a bit frightening to the average person, it’s relating to our activity in that area of crime,” he said.
“There’s no doubt that there’s a lot going on with ice – it’s something we’re well and truly aware of.
“Community-wise, there’s obviously a lot more interest in methamphetamine activity. It’s a talking point, but prescribed medication is also a concern and there’s plenty of people also using alcohol.”
Superintendent Coombes said all drug activity was high on the police agenda.