Drug offences up

DRUG offences are up by nearly 90 per cent in Wellington Shire, the latest round of crime statistics reveal.

Police say the high figure reflects the prosecution of a high number of offenders.

Released quarterly by Victoria Police, the statistics detail the rates of a range of crimes recorded in the region between January 2011 and December 2011, and also offers a comparison for the same time period in 2010.

Drug offences increased from 71 crimes recorded in 2010 to 134 in 2011 — a rise of 88.7 per cent.

Wellington Police Service Area Inspector Michael McGinn attributed the sharp increase in drug offences to ongoing police operations.

“We’ve been looking at the causal factors and we’ve spent a significant amount of time focusing on our local drug issues, hence the big rise in prosecutions,” he explained.

“The very pleasing part is, of course, the commensurate drop in burglaries and thefts from motor vehicles.

“If we can do something about the drugs, then we also address the flow-on effect of reducing burglaries and thefts.”

Insp McGinn said there was a strong correlation between drug use and burglary in the region, and the high level of drug offenders being prosecuted was partially responsible for the drop in burglaries.

The figures reflected the trend outlined by Insp McGinn, with residential burglaries dropping from 213 cases in 2010 to 207 cases in 2011 (a drop of 2.8 per cent), commercial burglaries dropping from 235 cases to 201 (a 14.5 per cent drop) and thefts from vehicles dropping from 207 to 178 (decreasing by 14 per cent).

Insp McGinn said while cannabis was traditionally the drug of choice in regional areas like Wellington Shire because of better growing conditions in the country, locally there was also a market for amphetamines and heroin.

“When we look at it, albeit anecdotally, we’ve noticed that when there seems to be an influx of heroin into the community, that tends to drive our burglaries and thefts from motor cars up,” he said.

However, family violence has continued to be an issue in Wellington Shire, with the region recording the highest increase in family violence by percentage in eastern Gippsland.

Family violence reports increased from 72 reported cases in 2010 to 161 in 2011 — a rise of 123 per cent.

However, Insp McGinn said he considered the increase to be a good sign, as domestic violence traditionally was under-reported to police.

Insp McGinn said while police were limited with how much support they could provide to victims of domestic violence, police had been working hard with partner agencies, including local support services and the Human Services Department, to put long-term intervention programs in place.

The rise in domestic violence was also partly responsible for the increase in the crimes against the person set of data.

The data, which includes crimes such as assault, sexual assault and harassment, increased by 39.8 per cent from 410 instances in 2010 to 573 in 2011.

Insp McGinn said along with family violence, the increase was also attributable to violence amongst prisoners at Fulham Correctional Centre.

For the full set of crime statistics, visit www.vicpolicenews.com.au and click on the “My Place” section.

For more read Friday’s Gippsland Times.