Drug crime on the rise

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According to the saying, the numbers don’t lie – except when it comes to Queenstown’s drug crime, a local top copper says.

Drug stats covering warnings, prosecutions for possession, and prosecutions for manufacturing and cultivation, appear to show 2018 was Queenstown’s lowest for drug crime in the past five years.

There were a combined 68 warnings or prosecutions last year, compared to 85 in 2014.

The worst year was 2017, with 101.

But Detective Sergeant Brian Cameron says if anything, drug crime’s getting worse.

Wastewater testing carried out by police shows Queenstown’s “particularly rife with MDMA and cocaine”, Cameron says.

“Meth is still there, and that’s the drug of concern.”

There were just 17 prosecutions in the Queenstown District Court for possession last year. In 2014, there were 42.

Cameron says people buying drugs in the resort aren’t always getting what they expect.

During recent arrests, criminals had been caught with products they were selling as drugs that actually weren’t narcotics.

When it comes to warnings, cannabis is by far the most common drug found.

Part of the problem for cops is that Queenstown’s community is both transient and affluent, he says.

“The typical drug user is here for a good time not a long time. It’s a target-rich environment for dealers.”

With people constantly coming and going, that makes it tough for police to “get to the underbelly of it”.

He describes tackling organised crime as a jigsaw.

“It just takes one little piece of information that could be the impetus to get a warrant.”

While the dealing may be happening here, he doesn’t believe the manufacturing is.

“I can say relatively safely that drugs are coming into this area from other places.

“They’re not doing this because they want people to have a good time, they want to make money.”

The stats appear to support that.

In the past five years combined, there were only 19 prosecutions for manufacturing or cultivation in the Queenstown court.

daisy.hudson@scene.co.nz