Opinion: Police outgunned in fight against drug crime

Some of the $17 million haul of methamphetamine police seized (Supplied)
Some of the $17 million haul of methamphetamine police seized (Supplied)

Police on Wednesday announced the seizure of $17 million worth of methamphetamine, linked to the Bandidos Motor Cycle Gang. Labour MP Stuart Nash says there’s no hope of winning the war on drugs unless the Government increases police resources.

If we want to have any hope of rebalancing the war on drugs in our favour, we need to increase the number of police responsible for investigating illegal drugs right across the supply chain, from the international gangs through to the people peddling the poison to the vulnerable in our communities.

This has now become a political issue rather than an operational one.

By that I mean if the Prime Minister and Minister of Police are serious in their efforts to really win the war on drugs, then we really do need more police on the front line.

The only way that can happen is to provide the police with the money necessary to employ more officers and equip them with the tools and technology to match those used by these large and sophisticated criminal organisations.  

New Zealand is a major market for these extremely sophisticated international drug organisations. The money that can be made is huge but the damage caused to our communities is extensive.  

In fact, answers from written questions from the Minister of Police show that the number of sworn police officers whose primary role is investigating illegal drugs has dropped from 178 in 2012/13 to 166 in 2015/16.

At the same time the amount of meth seized has gone from 6096 grams in 2012 to 50,218 grams in 2015.

We also know that the price of meth on the street has dropped, the quantity available has increased and the cost to our communities and society is mounting, yet the numbers of police dedicated to investigating drug crime has fallen. This is not only unacceptable, it’s putting the safety of police and the community at risk.

Perhaps not surprisingly, the two districts that came bottom of the recently released 2016 Workplace Culture Survey in terms of staff satisfaction, Northland and Eastern, have the least full-time staff who investigate drugs as their primary role.

The police and customs should be congratulated on the seizure of 17kg of meth. It’s a job well done and will send a message that we are serious about addressing the scourge.  

However, we currently lack the police resource to really go hard on this issue.