The area commander of policing for East Gippsland, Inspector Luke Smeaton, believes that in drug use in the region is a result of community acceptance. Inspector Smeaton says while the drug problem in East Gippsland “is no where near as bad as Melbourne’s”, he warns it could become worse if police and partner agencies “take their foot off the pedal”. “The things that go hand in hand with drug use is community acceptance … is it okay to smoke a joint, is it okay to take an eccy (ecstasy) in a nightclub, is it okay to try a little bit of ice? “There’s that desensitisation,” Inspector Smeaton points out. “My personal feeling is there is an apathy in relation to taking drugs and their use and whether it will cause me harm or it won’t.” “I think that’s a big factor and that’s why education is very important,” he said. Inspector Smeaton was speaking to the News about drug and alcohol abuse and the effect is has on local communities. “We know that drugs are a driver of crime and the significant harm that drugs cause is obviously impacting our communities,” he said. “We see it through family violence. Violence in the home is very often linked with illicit drug use or drug abuse. “(But) we need to understand that alcohol is also a major factor, more of a factor than illicit drugs.”
East Gippsland police are working on developing credible information to take out the drug supply in the region. Inspector Smeaton says while police receive a lot of information about drugs, 90 per cent of it is hearsay and it could be often hard to validate. “It’s much better to go with good information and we are developing some really good intelligence,” he said. “We’re focussing on taking out the supply and (causing) an interruption.” Police recently intercepted a white Ford sedan in Bairnsdale in the early hours of the morning carrying drug paraphernalia to the tune of $30,000. A 31-year-old man from Metung was remanded in custody, charged with trafficking, following the intercept in which police also found an edged weapon. Inspector Smeaton spent 37 years policing in Melbourne and is familiar with the profile of a typical person who uses ice or methamphetamine. “As far as dealing goes the typical profile is a tradie in his mid 20s.We don’t narrow our view on that, that’s the general trend across all communities,“ he said. Inspector Smeaton says because of illicit drugs being detected in a high number of road fatalities, police are doing more drug testing of motorists. “That’s the trend we’re noticing across the state of Victoria so we’re going to match that trend and people should be aware we’ll be checking them in those remote communities as well.” Police can only be successful as the information they receive. “Crimestoppers is where we are successful and I’d encourage those with information to phone,” he said.