Tuesday, 14 December 2010

NSW Drug Raids - Police Need to Tell the Truth

Police capture a dangerous 60 year old in a bathrobe
When it takes six military style police officers with automatic rifles, machine guns and a tank to escort an old man in a bathrobe, you know we have a problem. But this is just lost on NSW police as Commissioner Andrew Scipione declared, "Today we haven't taken a tentacle off the beast, we've removed a very, very big beast”. Yeah, a beast in a red dressing gown.

For an operation that had been planned for 12 months, needed 500 officers and involved “alleged drugs barons” at the “top of the tree”, only $9 million worth of drugs were captured. Basically, a drop in the ocean considering how big the drug market is in Australia.

But like traffic cameras, the real prize is the income with over $14 million worth of seized assets. This might help explain why the NSW police used a tank and hundreds of paramilitary style officers.

Commissioner Scipione’s spin is just the latest in a long line of chest beating speeches where we, the public are duly informed that drug syndicates are running scared and will suffer greatly from a reinvigorated police focus. Of course, we have seen this numerous times before and most of us just forget as drug dealers return and go about their daily business.

A number of the people who were arrested today were people I started working on 30 years ago when I started working in the police force
--NSW police as Commissioner Andrew Scipione

Mixed in with the excited claims of success are some worrying discrepancies. Not that the police really notice when there’s so much to tell the awaiting media. Admitting that some of those arrested have been around for 30 years might make the commissioner feel good in front of the bright media lights but it’s also confession that the drug ring leaders have built a three decade old crime empire under the nose of the law. Not something to boast about.

Like the recent drug raids in Victoria, we are being led to believe that the police are winning a battle against drugs. The assumption that catching some drug dealers, especially drug syndicate leaders is going to have a lasting affect on the drug market is fanciful. In fact, it’s a down right lie … and the police know it. 

Ask yourself if you can remember the last multimillion dollar bust? Have we already forgotten that in 2008, WA police uncovered 22kg of methylamphetamine and 35,000 ecstasy tablets worth $77 million? What about when the Federal police seized 464kg of cocaine worth $160 million from a yacht in Brisbane. That was only two months ago. In September this year, 50kg of cocaine with a street value of $12.5 million was confiscated by NSW police in Minto. In January, police found 9000 mature cannabis plants worth $18 million in the Chaelundi National Park. Only two years ago, the AFP and Customs uncovered 3000 tomato tins that contained 15 million ecstasy tablets when they were shipped from Italy to Melbourne. It was a total haul of 4.4 tonnes of ecstasy with a street value of $440 million. They arrested 20 people for the crime. Any of this ring a bell?

The fact is, we will never make any significant dent in the drug trade. We will send many people to prison, reap hundreds of millions in assets and continue to smile for the cameras in front of an eager media. But the illicit drug market stops for no one. There is just too much money to made and there’s plenty to go around. Enough for drug mules, street dealers, corrupt authorities, crooked cops and those at the top.

History and experience from other countries clearly show that no amount of policing can stop the drug trade. The black market for drugs is valued at over $400 billion annually which is the 2nd largest industry on the planet. Larger than oil, manufacturing and food sales combined. Only military sales generate more income. With a global user base of up to 250 million people or 5.7% of the world’s population, it’s no wonder the illicit drug market is booming.

We should avoid congratulating ourselves on our efforts rather than our outcomes.
--Dr Don Weatherburn - Director of the NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research

What we need to focus on is that there is a big difference between what the police claim and what the experts say. A recent article in the Sydney Morning Herald has Dr Don Weatherburn, Director of the NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research doubting the success of the latest NSW raids. He points out that “research had so far been inconclusive on the long-term impact of drug law enforcement”. This view was reflected by Dr. Katie Willis, a senior research analyst at the Australian Institute of Criminology. Dr. Willis said it was also necessary to look at health-related results such as drug deaths, overdoses, and drug treatment. Our insatiable hunger for arresting people is blinding us to the human fallout as we lose sight of whether our strategies are benefitting society.

The big question is whether our attempts to wipe out the illicit drug market actually works. And like so many experts tell us, the answer is no. This presents us with a huge problem. Why do the police and governments continue with such a failed policy when there is no evidence whatsoever that it is successful? Shouldn’t this send the media and political opposition into a frenzy that the police and government are trying to fool us? Where’s the scrutiny? Where’s the demand for an enquiry into our flawed drug policy? Where’s the outrage that we are being lied to by our authorities and police?

At the end of the day while moralists pray, governments talk tough and police incarcerate people, criminals just keep getting richer and society becomes more dangerous. If the experts tell us this, why can’t the police?

Premature Cheers For Drug Busts
Geesche Jacobsen and Nick Ralston
December 10, 2010

POLICE say they plan to target anyone seeking to fill the vacuum left by the arrest of 31 alleged drug distributors this week.

But the head of the Bureau of Crime Statistics warned yesterday that the results of the arrests should be judged on their impact on the price, purity and availability of the relevant drugs.

Police said the drug raids this week had taken out those they believe to be the major players in the middle level of the three tiers of the drug supply chain. Local police are targeting street-level drug supply, and specialist officers also work on putting the third level, drug importers, behind bars.

But Dr Weatherburn warned: ''We should avoid congratulating ourselves on our efforts rather than our outcomes.''

Research had so far been inconclusive on the long-term impact of drug law enforcement, he said.

Drug seizures in the early 1990s had had no impact on price, purity or availability of the drug, but later seizures and arrests of heroin kingpins had led to an enduring heroin shortage, he said.

Some researchers said the heroin shortage was not the result of police work, but other factors.

A senior research analyst at the Australian Institute of Criminology, Katie Willis, said it was also necessary to look at health-related results such as drug deaths, overdoses, and drug treatment.

Dr Willis said it was also difficult to assess the impact of law enforcement because the size of the drug market was unknown. The police, she said, might have been tackling just ''the tip of the iceberg''.

But she said she expected the purity and availability of drugs to fall in the short term as a result of the arrests.

Yesterday, Henry Landini, 66, alleged to be one of the key players arrested on Wednesday, made a brief appearance in Bankstown Local Court. In a blue polo shirt, with his hair slicked back and wearing glasses, he did not apply for bail and it was formally refused.

He has been charged with supplying large amounts of amphetamines in Sydney's inner-west and knowingly dealing with the proceeds of crime.

In court his solicitor, Paul Kenny, rejected claims made by police that there was a risk Mr Landini might flee the country.

Another man arrested on Wednesday, Adel Muustafa, 24, also did not apply for bail but he did not make an appearance before the court. He has been charged with supplying cocaine in Sylvania and with firearm offences.

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