Saturday, 20 June 2015

Drug offences in and around schools

School children in Victoria have become a profitable drug market as school yards are being targeted by traffickers selling the dangerous street drug, ice.

New data has shown that drug trafficking offences in both private and public schools in Victoria have doubled in the past five years with dealers being arrested on school property more than twice a week.

New South Wales schools have also seen a surge in drug-related offences with an average of almost two offences on school grounds every day.

This included primary, secondary and kindergarten to year 12 campuses with 65 percent of all drug-related incidents occurring during normal school hours.

New South Wales schools are also struggling with the drug epidemic and police were involved in 377 incidents last year.

Lismore in the state's northwest saw the highest amount of offences with police becoming involved in 20 incidents last year.

A Victorian Police spokesperson said that although the data for drug offences show drug offences occurring on school grounds, this does not mean the offences were committed by students.

'The number of drug possession or use offences has risen by only 25 offences in five years, while the number of drug dealing or trafficking offences has only risen by 14 offences,' the police spokesperson told Daily Mail Australia.

'Around 40 per cent of offences occur outside of school hours, so we know there are people who will access these locations to engage in these types of offences because the sites are deserted and secluded.' 

Premier Daniel Andrews released the Ice Action Plan in early March in a bid to reduce the supply, demand and harm of the drug in Victoria.

The government have invested $18 million into rehabilitation programs and $4.5 million into tough new laws to deter drug dealers and manufacturers.

Read more: 

and in today's Sunday Age.

The department also noted it did not have access to drug statistics for Catholic and independent schools despite its responsibility for regulating the state's education sector. It said principals were required to report any alleged criminal activity to police.

Catholic Education Melbourne and Independent Schools Victoria said they did not collect data on drug offences.

However, the Department of Education claims the "majority" of drug offences attributed to the school system were committed by "trespassers" (non-students) who have been caught using or selling drugs on school grounds outside school hours and during holidays.

But CSA figures actually show that 65 per cent of all drug-related crime on campuses occurs from 8am to 5pm on Monday to Friday during the school term.

There were 73 drug-related offences recorded in 2014 during school hours, which corresponds to more than two drug crimes being detected per school week.

A Victorian principal, who asked to remain anonymous, said the discrepancy in the figures was likely because the department "doesn't know or doesn't want to know" what's happening with such a politically sensitive issue.

"Record keeping at the department is terrible. It could also be that some principals either don't know how to report these kinds of incidents properly or resist doing it because of what it says about the school."

Youth outreach worker Les Twentyman said the Department of Education was "in denial" about the scope of the problem.

"Ice is a major issue in society as a whole but we're supposed to believe the department that schools are somehow immune?" he said. "Drugs and gangs are absolutely in our schools and part of the problem is the denial of this issue by the education department."

The Sunday Age understands that ice is being sold to students by other students at a prominent state school in Melbourne's inner suburbs. Deals are conducted during class breaks and lunch near a tree on school grounds that is well known as a place to buy drugs, a source said.

The school's principal said they had "no evidence" it was occurring and insisted that staff would be aware if drug deals were taking place on the 1500-student campus.

The CSA data also confirms claims that school grounds have become a focal point for activity by drug traffickers and users in the evenings and on weekends.

Police and education sources say that school grounds – which are often surrounded by fences and trees but remain accessible after-hours – attract less attention for dealers and users than public parks.

The Education Department did not answer questions about what security precautions, if any, have been implemented to prevent the infiltration of drug traffickers and users onto school campuses during or after school hours.

School staff are empowered to conduct locker and desk searches, but the department does not know how often they occur. The Sunday Age understands the department opposes the use of sniffer dogs on school campuses.

"Victorian schools take an education approach to drug prevention, and focus on developing students' resilience, promote personal safety and provide good information to help kids make good decisions," a department spokesman said.

The Andrews government, which launched a $45.5 million Ice Action Plan earlier this year, is planning to create special new penalties for dealing drugs – particularly ice – to schoolchildren or near schools following the findings of the 2014 Parliamentary Inquiry into Ice.

"The Andrews Labor government is determined to ensure we have laws that send the strongest possible message to those adults who push drugs to kids near schools," Police Minister Wade Noonan said.

Victoria Police declined to comment on why there had been a surge in drug offences linked to school campuses.

"Statistically ... drug offences in school locations only account for an incredibly small percentage of the overall offences – less than one per cent," a spokeswoman said.

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