Ballarat the sixth-highest drug hotspot in Victoria: police statistics

BALLARAT continues to experience an alarming rise in drug crime, new police statistics show.

The release of the Victoria Police annual figures on Wednesday shows drug offences in the city rose from 308 to 426, an increase of 38.4 per cent on the same 12-month period between 2012-13.

According to the per 100,000 population dataset from the statistics, overall crime is down by 1.3 per cent in Ballarat. Assaults, theft, burglary and property damage offences have all fallen in line with the decrease.

However, the statistics reveal weapons offences, as well as behaviour in public and deception offences, have substantially increased.

Ballarat is the sixth-highest drug hotspot in Victoria, behind Bendigo and Warrnambool where drug crime doubled in the past 12 months. 

Ballarat Police Inspector Bruce Thomas was unsure why the prevalence of ice seemed worse in regional rather than metropolitan areas.

“I don’t think it’s any secret that methylamphetamine is prevalent in society,” he said.

“It’s a statewide problem, not just a Ballarat problem.”

Inspector Thomas said the rise in weapons offences – from 274 to 325 – in Ballarat was a “concern” for police, adding people had become more willing to use weapons.

“It is a concern,” Inspector Thomas said.

“We’ve noticed a lot more people using weapons.” 

“We noticed a recent spate of box cutters being used, probably because they are easily obtainable and can be used for legitimate purposes.”

Weapons were increasingly prevalent in drug crime arrests, he said. Deception offences rose from 340 to 585 and included internet and phone scams. 

Inspector Thomas said a growing trend of ‘tap and go’ credit card thefts from cars led to an increase in obtain property by deception offences.

However, theft from motor vehicles decreased by 7 per cent in light of campaigns held in Ballarat, including “I wish I locked it” and Operation Safe Plate. Inspector Thomas said a decline in property damage was a positive sign, but the trend needed to continue.

On Wednesday, Opposition spokesman Wade Noonan told media at the Ballarat Police Station that Labor would implement an ice taskforce across multiple facets of government within 100 days of being elected.

david.jeans@fairfaxmedia.com.au

Editorial, page 13

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