|Different Thinking – Drugs|
The Community Advocacy Alliance (CAA) has accepted a challenge by Matt Johnston of the Herald Sun to apply different thinking to the Ice and by natural extension the entire illicit drug problem.
The CAA comprises retired executive police with over 300 years of experience, Social workers, Victims’ advocates, former and current lawyers, and representatives of the corporate and business sectors. The diversity of its experience is the CAA strength.
There is no debate that the present system and strategies have failed miserably and the growth of the drug epidemic rolls on unfettered.
Therefore, the basic premise of this paper is that what we are doing is failing and although this paper may not be the panacea, it cannot be any worse than what we are doing.
The first major premise is that the CAA believes the answer lies in the overall philosophical approach to the issue. The problem is not one of criminality, social issues, or health. It is all of these things and more, so we need to address the problem from an overall perspective.
The CAA draws upon the philosophy behind marketing, “Supply and Demand.”
Anybody who has any experience with the free market concepts will cite many examples of where demand spawns the supply and where demand diminishes so does supply. An excellent example is the growth of the illicit tobacco industry and the introduction of chop-chop into the market. A demand created for a cheaper alternative to retail cigarettes and an illicit industry blossomed. It was not that long ago that chop-chop was a minor part of this industry with very few people accessing or knowing how to access the product.
Targeting the end user (Demand) rather than the cigarette manufactures (Supply) making smoking socially unacceptable has been a highly successful strategy.
Tackling the demand side is the only effective way of achieving any meaningful inroads to reducing the prevalence and availability of illicit drugs. Where demand slows the initial impact on the supply line will be to cut overheads and reduce cost. This will inevitably lead to fewer supply lines as they become uneconomical. That we are talking about criminal activity makes no difference criminals are in the illicit drug business for the easy riches and the lifestyle..
To understand this drug problem some truths that must be exposed.
- To become addicted takes more than one experiment in the vast majority of cases so addiction is a path sought, not an accident.
- Addicts are generally in denial about their addiction “I am in control I am not addicted – I can stop at any time if I wanted”.
- The vast majority of drug users are addicts ,
- The vast majority of addicts service their addiction by criminal activity
- By far and away, most addicts are drug pushers.
- Drug addicts enjoy their drug lifestyle – it is as addictive sometimes as the drug. No responsibilities – no work – no family pressure – loads of cash the night life the girls the tough men, the excitement and mystique of the bikes it is like living a dream for many – the ultimate cop out.
- The first step for recovery of an addict is to admit they are addicted
- Drug addicts are accomplished manipulators and liars and this trait does the most harm to the addict’s family. Believe nothing a drug addict has to say.
- A drug addict cannot be rehabilitated until they decide they want to be. The best that can be done is to encourage that path and make the option of addiction less palatable.
- Drug taking and addiction can in many cases surface while a child is still at Primary School.
Our plan has many new and original ideas and revamps many that have been successful in the past. It will need some new money from the government but is aimed at redirecting existing funding rather than new.
We have no doubt that there are many worthwhile projects that deserve support and inclusion but we have to start somewhere and build a framework that can accommodate other initiatives. As these initiatives are implemented, we will see other programs included, both existing and future.
A major issue is that current anti-addiction/drugs programs are not coordinated. Everybody is doing his or her own thing.
As a community we have no method to manage and ensure that drug addicts are accessing proper medical care. Obversely we have no idea if the appropriate care is extended to the younger people who have the propensity to be susceptible to becoming involved with in the allure of the drug scene. Equally, in Law Enforcement it is essential that all the effort is not biased toward recidivists or major suppliers at the expense of preventative work to reduce the demand.
To achieve a better outcome the CAA has designed a framework so that the various functions can be included and where there is a gap that gap can be filled whether by redirecting resources from a more heavily resourced area or creating new programs.
More importantly the various programs can be subjected to ongoing assessment to ensure relevance and to ensure the objectives set are being met.
The CAA welcomes constructive criticism of this initiative but absolutely rejects any criticism that is not accompanied by an alternative. Criticism for criticisms sake is pointless anyway.
Parenting is the most important job anybody can take on in their life and is about the only one for which there is no Degree, Certificate IV, or anything else. Most new parents rely on life experiences, which can be problematic.
Introducing training, in particular as it relates to their Child’s social development, is best done at the times when the parents are most focused on their child and forward-looking.
At this critical time in a child’s development, (in reality and in particular in the minds of the parents) is at pre-school or immediately when they start Primary School.
Basic training in behavioral and development issues are best delivered by a clinician in child behavioral discipline.
A three night by two-hour session for all parents organised by the school aimed at the prep grade children’s parents should be adequate and marketed as quasi mandatory. The police members working at the school as part of the PISP can be introduced to the parents as a potential resource. That introduction would be critical as it portrays the relationship in the various disciplines. A new initiative organised by all primary Schools.
The primary focus of the Police in Schools Program (PISP) should be on these formative years where social skills can be addressed, as can anti-social behaviours. Basic concepts of right and wrong together with social responsibilities in a structured program delivered by trained Police School Resource Officers (SRO) can have a positive lasting effect on the development of children at this age.
The Child’s personal safety skills can start to be developed creating basic situational awareness techniques.
Although the focus of the SROs is on the grades 3-4 they have a much broader function within the school community. SROs become a reference point for concerned parents whether it relates to a child or their own personal circumstance like domestic violence or illicit drug use within their family or neighbourhood.
The SROs become an integral part of each school community they manage and can be an early warning resource for a number of community risk factors.
Victoria Police should reintroduce this essential program. which should extend throughout the school life of every student.
The following proposals should be considered in light of this requirement
As young people start to think about developing their social skills, fly the coop, to the exclusion of their parents, the core function of Blue Light becomes evident. Designed for young people to enjoy social events free from alcohol, violence and drugs the Blue Light Disco program provides a safe environment that parents find acceptable and the young people relate to, a rare phenomenon at this age.
Supervised and run by off duty police members supported by other emergency Service Personnel and community volunteers the program has many positives too numerous to list here. Providing a safe space for these early developments is essential. Victoria Police should re-engage with Blue Light in a positive way.
Blue Light Discos make a profit and the money is channelled back into the community, an often overlooked advantage of the program. With the reintroduction of SROs and Embedded Police Officers (Secondary School EPOs) the money can be channelled to assist them directly contributing to the community they serve giving added value to their function.
An extension of the Blue Light program, the Maldon Blue Light Youth camp provides structured activities and while having fun is an essential part of any adventure camp the underlying focus of Derby Hill is Safety, Independence and Road Safety and integrates with the Bike-Ed program developed within the Primary Schools. The camps capacity needs to be substantially increased from about 4000 children per year at this site or an additional site established to allow the advantages of this program to be wide enough to have substantial impact. Victoria Police need to re-engage with the Youth Camp in a positive way.
Another youth program from which Victoria Police disengaged some years ago needs to be reconnected. The strategies developed by the New Start Program can be applied to students in the primary system already showing signs of disengagement from education. Irrespective of whether it is the child’s problems or problems at home, Operation New Start can engage troubled young people early and outside the school gate, beyond the limitation of educators.
A unique program developed by the Night Club Industry is an ideal vehicle to commence drug minimisation and risk taking hopefully before the children are exposed to illicit drugs. The content may not be to everybody’s taste but letting young people know what they could possibly be ingesting at this early stage in their social development and when they are starting to be very body conscious has substantial merit. That it is delivered by people in the Night Club Industry gives the message credibility in the eyes of the students.
A revamped Police Cautioning program used to intervene in any criminal or anti-social activity by young people is a corner stone of diversion. Introducing punitive penalties agreed to by the parent and the cautioning Officer can be very effective. From losing their phone for a week to curfews, or school detentions could form the arsenal of sanctions but creative additions would be encouraged. Critically, with the parent’s or guardians’ consent the School class coordinator or other appropriate school official could be invited to join the process, as should the SRO from the Primary School and where appropriate the Operation New Start representative. The child can see that their behaviour is not acceptable to a broad cross section of authority figures. As participation in the process of a caution is an invitation by police as an alternative to Court, the police and the Parents have substantial freedom to find creative ways to teach the child that their behaviour has undesirable consequence. Should the child offend again the consequences should increase.
If a child develops into a recidivist then the courts must acknowledge the function and importance of the Police Cautioning Program and determine sentence on the basis that the child has already received two or three cautions before arriving at Court. The Courts in appropriate circumstances could refer children back to the police Cautioning program freeing up Court time.
Critical to the success of this program is that the child is cautioned within a relatively short time of being detected committing an offence. To expedite matters a full brief is not required and a simplified approval process would see the child processed and cautioned within seven days. The timing is a critical factor in the success or otherwise of this program.
An extension of the early training program by Clinicians applied to parenting an adolescent or young adult. A difficult time for most parents training at this stage alerting parents to what they may be confronted with as the child matures and develops through puberty at a critical point in their development.
How to deal with children testing their boundaries and how to manage risk taking behaviours including drugs and alcohol.
Embedded Police Officers (EPOs) in Secondary Schools is a major initiative that will have substantial influence on young people as they move through the secondary education system. The benefits are not too hard to identify but above all else the role model these police will provide is invaluable. The EPOs working with the SROs can provide continuing management of problematic young people. EPOs will develop lifelong influences on young people and be a critical support mechanism for young people who find themselves victims of crime or anti-social behaviour. As with SROs, EPOs will perform functions that currently fall unfairly on the shoulders of educators who are sometimes ill equipped to manage some problems and are restricted to the school gate minimising their impact. Police can and will follow up at the child’s home with whatever action or additional services that may need to be applied.
A continuation of this program in secondary years is critical to divert young people and additional resources and research must be applied to improve the effectiveness and success rate of this program. The program has been derided by sectors of the legal community claiming police have no role to play in the dispensing of justice. These critics are clearly basing their position on self-interest not the interest of the young people. The legal system cannot fairly claim the moral high ground in this debate. Enough jurists have not covered themselves with glory in their deliberations and outcomes to support that claim. It may however be a sound strategy to have a senior Jurist as a consultant to the project as it needs to be expanded dramatically. This would gain credibility within the legal fraternity and bridge the current gap between the program and the legal system.
Although a labour intensive program, it nevertheless can save the community many thousands of dollars by taking care of the worst and most likely young people who disengage from education, far too often prematurely. Coordinated with the Police Cautioning Program this very effective program needs to be resourced properly. Victoria Police disengaged from Operation New Start some time ago but the program in an abridged version continues in a limited fashion. However the architects and managers of the scheme need to be consulted on the best way forward. The potential for Service Clubs to become actively involved in this program should be explored.
Conducted as a field trip this program can alert young people to the dangers of illicit drugs as well as educate them on the protocols of going out. The session held at a (Closed) Night Club is likely to have greater penetration than if the subject was delivered in the classroom. Young people see the people involved in the Night Club Industry as having credibility on this subject. Understanding what constitutes bad behaviour at these venues has a ‘knock on’ effect to the child’s behavioural development. Contrary to critics who claim it is encouraging young people to attend Night Clubs, there is no evidence to support that theory. Most responsible people however would rather their offspring venture to a well-controlled Night Club when old enough, as opposed to a party in a short-term rental property without controls or walking the streets meeting in parks or other public places after hours.
A highly effective program that operates in nearly every other State but is limited to just one club in Victoria that has little connection with police, the PCYC is a program worth exploring.
Although initial set up costs can be substantial the clubs usually become self-sufficient in a very short time. Clubs have substantial gym equipment and the commercial use of the Gym offsets running costs and usually returns a healthy profit that can be channelled back into youth programs often funding youth worker outreach work. The demand for safe Gyms for adults, particularly for females, is very important and the PCYCs fill a gap. At least clients of the club can be assured that their Gym is not surreptitiously run by Outlaw Motor Cycle Gangs or other organised crime. With the support of the Government and police a working party should examine and provide a frame work for the development of PCYCs for Victoria. Another piece to the puzzle.
As a child is exposed through the various stages of this strategy a consistent reinforcement of the message associated with the risk of experimenting or being associated with drugs needs to be reinforced by constant reminders of the risks. Reinforcing the risks at every opportunity supports parents and young people but it is essential that a common simple message is portrayed wit uniform graphics whether the messages are on the back of toilet doors attached to school communications posters where young people traverse the message must be simple and clear and directly aimed at discouraging experimentation. “Would you put this in your body” with graphics of the various undesirable products detected in illicit drugs particularly party drugs.
Using the techniques of the advertising industry with point of sale advertising these principles can be applied to this issue and would be incredibly cost effective as the material once displayed would be anticipated to have a substantial shelf life. The familiarity of the same message exposure at multiple places over an extended period (years) can impact and change behaviours.
A paper entitled, “Lose your licence lose, your life” prepared by the CAA on this subject is attached for reference but in summary the idea is to make the penalties imposed on young drivers commensurate with the offence. Minor offences need to be dealt with compassionately, not draconian penalties that far too often ruin people’s lives. Having penalties imposed that are determined by legislation that exceed the penalties regularly dispensed for serious criminal activity is unjust and breeds contempt for authority.
The impact on young drivers can be catastrophic as they generally lose their job (in many cases apprenticeships that they do not return to) so they cannot pay their fines or maintain the payments on their car or compliance fees. It creates a vicious circle that often spirals the young person towards less desirable behaviours. They are confronted with what appear to be insurmountable problems for which there is no solution or way out.
Restricting car use using technology could be part of the deterrent for a breach of the road law. Allowing minor traffic offenders to drive at certain times and places, for example, to work, school or for other legitimate but not social purposes could be administered through an expanded police cautioning program freeing up expensive Court time. A driver would need to elect to be cautioned so they agree to conditions or other penalties imposed by the Police Cautioning Officer. If the driver is aggrieved by the Caution conditions or they breach the agreed conditions they can elect to be or can be referred to the Magistrates Court.
The solution to managing breaches to this program could be as simple as installing a low cost timer or tracking device on the driver’s vehicle.
It seems crazy that we impose penalties that cause so much harm and have such a detrimental effect on the work capacity of drivers and such an adverse economic impact particularly on the welfare bill for relatively minor matters. Surely, this was not a deliberate strategy but unintended consequences. Are we that cruel? See attachment.
This change in direction does not recommend that the attention to drug cartels and other major players in the drug industry should be curtailed but a balance back toward more effectively dealing with the end user or customer and low level dealers must be the new focus.
Tackling the problem from the bottom removes or reduces demand causing more grief to the kingpins who then have to move their operations closer to the market eliminating steps in the process to save on overheads risking exposure.
Dealing with the problem at street level needs a mechanism to expeditiously process offenders and reduce the veil of anonymity and apparent indemnity from prosecution.
A useful analogy is policing itself. If you want to have an ineffective police service, reduce the numbers of police at the bottom end. The result is an unsustainable bloating at the top, which must ultimately be shrunk to replace the Police on the coalface. Simple structural realities. When applied to the drug trade, market forces do the job. Rather than external intervention which is the inevitable result needed in a bureaucracy to correct misalignment. Reducing demand for drugs will achieve the same outcome in that industry.
Similar to other adult police cautioning a drug cautioning Officer is supported by a clinician to respond to the welfare both physical and mental of the offender. Under this program offenders can be directed to attend assessment interviews recommended by a participating Clinician and agree to non-association conditions identified in the cautioning process.
We need to pressure addicts to identify their suppliers with an advantage to the addict if they do. We understand that the information generally available from an addict is of little intelligence value as it will be generally something like:” I get my shit from Travis, I ring him and he meets me”. The phone number will be to a throwaway and the supplier who is streetwise will be difficult to trace. The process is more aimed at putting pressure on the supplier and help drive the trade underground off the streets making operations difficult and reducing exposure of the illicit trade to our kids.
We continue to be amazed that the trade is allowed to flourish out in the open exposing all to its evil. Community leaders tend somehow to be unresponsive to this overt trading, as is the hierarchy of Police.
Lack of police action is a direct contradiction of the aims of policing and the Mission Statement for Victoria Police. Driving the problem underground may remove the exposure of ordinary citizens using toilets or going about their business not having to avoid used syringes and other paraphernalia let alone drug addicts off their face or ice addicts strutting around without their shirts, on the cusp of turning violent.
We suggest dozens of low-level dealers could be apprehended every day at present if Police carried out their sworn duty.
The actual impact on road safety is not exactly known but anecdotally police members are convinced the problem is far greater than we are led to believe. The over focus on alcohol presumably masks the true depth of the drug problem. One example that we all see on our roads from time to time is the lunatic weaving through the traffic hanging out the window usually without a shirt on, irrespective of the weather. Those in the know realise this person is high on Ice. The current option of calling 000 is a waste of time as the job is rarely is ever tasked or followed up, reinforcing the perception that even Police are not interested in following up on addicts.
The ability for the public to report this type and other bad road behaviours and have some action taken is now counter intuitive to the mantra of policing asking for public help in other areas. We accept that often the public do not provide sufficient information and encouraging them to get the registration number could encourage risk.. However there needs to be follow up and an explanation to the complainant as to the outcome of the reported incident.
Next time that member of the public might witness something more than an errant driver and their cooperation is critical.
Essential to bring pressure on dealers is a concept that when a drug addict progresses through the legal process there are two requirements mandated for assessing sentencing. The first is that they must identify their supplier and secondly being effected by self-induced drugs cannot be used to mitigate their criminal behaviour.
The need also exists for powers for Police to compulsorily drug test every suspect or person charged so that the true depth and breadth of the issue can be measured.
This approach also can pressure the addict into admitting their addiction, step one in any chance of rehabilitation. A positive result must be followed by a charge in relation to the use of the drug making it more difficult for the denial of the addict to continue. It is also essential that the courts record a conviction based on the test making denial even more difficult. The ability to require many addicts to confront their addiction that they try to hide of itself will act as a deterrent. The courts and the corrections system can then know in advance the drug status of the addict.
The creation of a Drugs and Mental Health Facility (DAMHF) has a number of advantages. It can address overcrowding of jails and the likely flow on to the penal system from this drug initiative will provide the essential expanded capacity for the prison system. Rather than simply construct another jail along the lines of the current models developing and building a high capacity dormitory style facility that is secured by Corrections staff, aided by substantial electronic security systems, but where detainees are treated as patients managed by clinicians. Providing a structured day for the inmates, the facility would house both long term and short-term prisoners/patients. It should be deigned to deal with long term mentally ill inmates whose period of detention managed by clinicians and have the capacity to deal with short-term drug addicts.
Not designed to be the sole rehabilitation centre for addicts but a piece of the rehabilitation process. This facility could take the weight off Corrections and lead to better outcomes for the community and inmates alike. At last, there would be a facility that could house people who are too ill to be left to their own devices (a current cruel practise) or house ill people who pose too greater risk to be immediately released back into the community
Although at first glance draconian, this concept may be the best method to dramatically reduce the number of drug addicts in society. It is well recognised that the only drug addict that can be reformed is one that wants to be, otherwise nothing known works. Lies and false promise from an addict are part and parcel of the process but nothing will change until a decision is made voluntarily.
Mandatory short term sentences will achieve a number of positives.
- Addicts can be assessed both physically and mentally.
- The short stay gives the opportunity for the addict to break the nexus of their addiction both socially and physically.
- An addict will not want to go through the withdrawal process for a second time and if they do they may be encouraged more easily to follow an alternate path making appropriate decisions.
- The drug supplier to the addict or pusher will not know whether their identity has been given to Police making life difficult for them. A former addict supports the potential The ‘yo–yo’ effect experienced by recidivist in and out of the facility. This will create pressure and opportunity for addicts to opt out of their addiction. Ending up in jail every few weeks can be a powerful incentive to seek rehabilitation.
- Families can have some short respite from the addict.
Serving a nominal sentence will give the addict a chance to clean up physically and be engaged in useful structured activity that may help clear their mind while under the supervision of a clinician. If their mental health has deteriorated dramatically, the powers of the Mental Health Act can be applied to treat the person.
There are a raft of potential medications that are claimed to have very high success rates in treating addictions both opiate and methamphetamine (Ice).
Drugs like Nalaxone, Buorenophine, Naltrexone, Metazapine, Modafinil, all claim to achieve positive outcomes, and in South Australia, they have developed a Matrix Model Treatment initiative that claims outstanding results. Whether anybody in Victoria is seriously looking at these new approaches is not clear but they must be explored with vigour as the community and the addicts do not have time to wait. At the very least, the community is entitled to know whether these issues are being examined, by whom and what time lines are applied.
Most of the research on the causes of drug addiction are about as effective as spray painting a house on a very windy day – ends up all over the place. When it comes down to what specifically can be done and what levels of result will be achieved over what period the research is found wanting. The majority of research comes up with glib findings blaming socio economic problems un-defined.
This initiative of a secure facility will give the opportunity for accurate data to be compiled from addicts in a controlled environment while they are addicted and can be accumulated as part of the assessment process.
Research gathered by this method will provide the indicators to create specific strategies and modify existing strategies to have a far more targeted impact of the drug problem.
The role of marketing to the addict is of equal importance as advertising targeting prevention. Clever and creative marketing reinforcing the need for addicts to admit addiction should be the target,
“If you use an illicit drug every day you are addicted”-
“If you cannot go more than ? hours without a hit you are addicted. no if’s no buts”.
“If most of your friends are addicts, so are you”
“Do drugs and die”.
Admission of addiction is the first step to rehabilitation and the power of advertising can play a pivotal role.
A, “what have you become campaign,” could also be effective and equally act as a deterrent.
Many years ago, Police Life ran a series of articles publishing (with permission) Police photographs (Mug shots) of a drug addict taken over a few years highlighting the deterioration in the person. After the pictures were published, the addict sought and successfully completed rehabilitation and as far as we know went on to a drug free life.
This example highlights the importance of addicts confronting their reality and visual prompts are the key.
Everywhere an addict goes they should be confronted with a consistent message..
Making Drug addicts the pariah’s of society and socially unacceptable similar to the success of the anti-smoking strategy has every chance of working in particular if the focus is on role models addicts may relate to.
We once wrote to the father of an addict who was at his wits end trying to deal with the manipulation, lying and stealing that was being imposed on his family by an addicted son. Our advice was, “You are grieving because the son you nurtured and looked after, took to his first day at school and shared all the other milestones of his life is not the person masquerading as your son – he is an impostor your son would never treat you like that. We can only hope that circumstance change and your son returns but until that time we suggest you distance yourself and do not connect with the imposter.” As difficult as that distancing is for a parent it is often the only viable alternative.
A series of seminar/workshops should be organised by Government, involving clinicians, police and the judiciary to provide advice and options for parents living through the nightmare of an addict in their family.
The drug problems requires action not just rhetoric and this document provides a plan for that action.
It is worthy of note that this plan can dovetail into the Victoria Police Association policing priorities 2017-2022 , “Your Safety Our Priority”.. That the CAA and the TPAV are not poles apart in their views is not insignificant, arriving at similar recommendations independently adds more weight to the recommendations of both organisations.
This strategy has five objectives
- Reduce the risk of young people experimenting with drugs.
- Reinforce the criminality of the illicit drug trade as opposed to the attraction to better lifestyle.
- Force the drug trade underground to reduce exposure to our young people.
- Create environment where the addicts are forced to accept they are addicted.
- Provide opportunities for addicts to undertake rehabilitation.
The problem is getting worse, not better and the traditional approach is failing both the addicts and the community.
It will fall to the politicians to provide the leadership and create the structure for the community if we are going to make a meaningful impact on this issue.
As this paper was prepared it became very obvious that new Authority with wide ranging powers and authority needs to be established to put these and other worthy initiatives in place and ensure duplication is avoided and only the most effective programs draw the bulk of the funding.
A very pragmatic approach by an authority that can quickly respond to market variables and be flexible enough to change direction as required based generally on empirical data but sometimes less scientific rationale that is obvious.
Programs that are nice to do, must be subject to critical analysis, and if they do not stack up exclude from the mainstream strategy.
Non-Partisan pragmatism is what will achieve change.