Drug-related crime continues to surge in Port Phillip

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By Kanika Sood

Drug-related offences have risen by 83 per cent in the last five years in Port Phillip, new data shows.

According to Victoria Crime Statistics Agency 511 drug-related offences were recorded in 2011. By 2015, the count had grown to 938.

In the same time period offences for cultivation and manufacturing of drugs shot up by 92%.

Port Phillip Mayor Bernadene Voss said the council was aware of the situation, “It’s a problem faced by all Australian municipalities,” she said. Mayor.

Voss added that drugs were not the only concern.

“While illicit drug use is an ongoing issue, other drug use including prescription medication and alcohol leads to more harm.

“Last year, 94 people died from pharmaceutical drug use and 38 from instances involving alcohol compared to 79 deaths from illicit substances,” said Voss.

Victoria Police spokesperson Sara-Jane Hopper echoed Cr Voss’s opinion.

“The increases experienced in drug related crime in Port Phillip are consistent to the increases experienced across the state in these periods,” Ms Hopper said.

Ms Hopper went on to attribute the increase in offences to the police’s diligence in tracking them.

“The increase in detected drug offences really shows that police continue to focus on this issue.

“We continually run proactive operations targeting the possession and trafficking of drugs.

“As a result of these operations we detect more of these crimes and take more drugs off the street to reduce the harms illicit drugs bring to the community.”

In 2015 Port Phillip had the seventh highest criminal offence rates among the 79 local government areas in Victoria.

The LGA’s offence rates per 100,000 residents grew by 5.4% between 2011 and 2015.

In 2015 Port Phillip’s offence rate stood at 11,914.3 offences per 100,000 residents. The state average was 8,353.

Offence rates in Port Phillip fell between 2011 and 2013 but have continued to rise since then.

What is causing this increase?

Ms Hopper said the growth in Port Phillip’s population density and tourism are to blame.

“Theft is a concern; we are seeing increases particularly in theft from motor vehicles,” said Hopper.

Statistics support Ms Hopper’s claims. Theft is currently the most prevalent crime in Port Phillip, it has grown by nearly 38 per cent in the last five years.

How can Port Phillip control its surging crime?

Mayor Voss said the enforcement of laws is a police matter but the council worked with Vic Police to reduce harm wherever possible.

“We also are involved with the State Government’s Hotspots project in partnership with the University of Melbourne and six other local government areas, including the cites of Melbourne and Stonnington.

“This project identifies opportunities for combined efforts and resources to reduce the harm associated with alcohol and drug use.”

The council hopes Hotspots will give them an insight into drug trends in Port Philip including demographics and how people seeking support use local services.

Cr Voss said the council hopes to have this information by August 2016.

Drug possession and use has long been an issue in Port Phillip especially in St Kilda.

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