Cabramatta Anti-Drug Strategy

About this Item
SpeakersMeagher Ms Reba; Carr Mr Bob
BusinessQuestions Without Notice, Report


Page: 1128

    Ms MEAGHER: My question without notice is to the Premier. What is the latest information on the implementation of the Cabramatta anti-drug strategy and the recommendations of the Legislative Council's Cabramatta policing report?

    Mr CARR: I am very happy to answer this question. I know that the answer will interest all members of the House. In March last year I announced an $18 million comprehensive plan to tackle the drug and crime problem in Cabramatta. The strategy included more police powers and resources, compulsory treatment for drug users, the City Watch program to bring police and the local community together, the Gateway program and the Department of Community Services street team. There we are basing DOCS at Cabramatta Police Station to work on the street and save kids in trouble. That is in vivid contrast to the record of the Greiner Government, which axed front-line child protection workers employed by DOCS. Since 1 January last year a total of no fewer than 75 drug houses in Cabramatta have been shut down. For the most part, they were shut down because of the increased police power we have provided. Fifteen drug houses were shut down only because of the increased police power; 50 people in Cabramatta have been charged with being in, entering or leaving a drug house; and 14 people in Cabramatta have been charged with organising or conducting a drug house as a result of our new legislation.

    Mr SPEAKER: Order! The honourable member for Burrinjuck will remain silent.

    Mr CARR: The move-on power that we gave police to deal with the problem of people touting for drug sales in the streets of Cabramatta has been used on no fewer than 2,500 occasions. We gave the police an additional power, and they went out and used it to clean up the streets of Cabramatta. That is exactly the effect the Government, in particular the honourable member for Cabramatta, wanted. The extra police presence has been noted and appreciated by local residents. To date, five of the 10 new drug detectives have been appointed, the rapid response bicycle squad has been increased from six to 12 members, and 13 police have graduated from the specialised TAFE course, which includes language skills, cultural awareness training and interview techniques. I will quote some statistics. I do so with all due caution; I do not do it with a sense of complacency. The problems will continue to be worked at. No-one is naive enough to suggest that the problems have been erased altogether.

    In Cabramatta between January 2000 and December 2001 motor vehicle theft declined by 37 per cent, stealing from a motor vehicle by 24.8 per cent, robbery with a weapon that is not a firearm by 7.1 per cent, and robbery without a weapon by 4.9 per cent. Weapons offences in general were down by 19.2 per cent. The evidence also indicates that the heroin drought and the work of local police are having a dramatic effect. Heroin possession offences have fallen by 63.9 per cent, and the number of needles and syringes dispensed to drug users has dropped from 40,239 to 9,900 in January this year. The Police Drug Bail Scheme and the Magistrates Early Referral Into Treatment program [MERIT] have been operating since July last year. To date, 28 offenders have been accepted into the MERIT program, 15 offenders are currently in the program and eight have graduated. Thirty-three offenders have been ordered by police to attend drug treatment and assessment as a condition of bail.

    One of those people referred by police is a woman called Rhonda. Rhonda is 17 years old, homeless and a regular user of heroin. Police referred her for assessment under the Police Drug Bail Scheme. The Cabramatta street team helped her through the assessment and negotiation of a treatment plan. She was admitted to the Corella Lodge detoxification unit and whilst she was there the Street team arranged for a local youth recovery service to provide her with ongoing support. Rhonda has now completed her detoxification and is undergoing residential rehabilitation treatment. Obviously, one of the keys to success is access to local drug treatment services. Already 100 drug treatment places have been made available at Liverpool Hospital, and this has met demand to date. The honourable member for Cabramatta has made it clear that the people of her electorate do not want treatment facilities in commercial or residential areas. The Government is working with Fairfield City Council to identify an appropriate site for a treatment facility away from such areas.

    The City Watch program, an initiative of the honourable member for Cabramatta, has been operating since July last year. This program is designed to bring local police, business and the community together to develop solutions to local crime. The City Watch council has met five times and will meet again on Thursday night. A number of community link groups have been set up and new groups to be set up in the future will involve business, students, Lao and Khmer communities. Since 1 July the Department of Community Services [DOCS] street team has been operating out of Cabramatta police station seven days a week. This is a good example of a whole-of-government approach. The street team goes out into the streets, finds homeless people in danger of drug abuse and reunites them with their families or brings them into drug and alcohol treatment. This innovative street team, which is tough on the causes of crime, has conducted 547 patrols. DOCS workers go out of the police station and go around the streets engaging with people at risk. They have made contact with 377 people on 708 occasions.

    People in need have approached them on 128 occasions. They have received 171 referrals from local police. They have referred 219 people to accommodation and drug and alcohol services. Honourable members have heard me speak about the Gateway program in schools. So far 43 students have received individual case management and 31 have completed TAFE and work skill courses. The work in Cabramatta on all these fronts is not easy, and it is not over. We are working through the recommendations of the Cabramatta policing report, which endorses most of the recommendations. For example, the committee recommended that the Government release the drug law enforcement performance indicators. I do so today. We are adopting other recommendations by different means. We are making progress, but we cannot for a moment be complacent. There is still a lot of work to do in Cabramatta. If heroin starts to flood back through our porous borders it will make the job even more difficult. This is a big task that requires a genuine effort by everyone involved, and a genuine commitment to work together. I seek leave to table the report published by the Government entitled "Cabramatta—A Report on Progress", and the report of the New South Wales Police Service entitled "New South Wales Illicit Drug Law Enforcement—Performance Indicators", both dated April 2002.

    Leave granted.

    Reports tabled.