Top policeman lashes out at drug 'national disgrace' in wake of rave arrests
Drugs are often cooked up in unhygienic environments, police have warned users. Photo: Courtesy Victoria Police
RISING numbers of drug arrests at rave parties have prompted a top Victorian police officer to label social acceptance of illicit drug taking ''a national disgrace''.
''[Users] are just not taking it seriously; we have a real problem in this country,'' Assistant Commissioner Stephen Fontana said.
''The concern that we have is that the general attitude of taking illicit drugs is [it's] OK … it's a national disgrace. It's not OK.''
Assistant Commissioner Stephen Fontana. Photo: Michael Clayton-Jones
If users saw where the drugs were produced they might think twice about taking them, Mr Fontana said, referring to what can be putrid illegal labs where criminals care little about what ingredients go into their products.
Police have intensified their efforts to combat illegal drug use, pouring in resources, which has resulted in more arrests.
But they admit they are still barely scratching the surface.
A reveller is taken to hospital.
Officers arrested 200 partygoers at the Creamfields dance music festival in Melbourne on April 28, seizing ecstasy, cocaine, cannabis and amphetamines.
''We put a fair bit of planning into this just to see what the impact would be, and getting 200 people is quite a lot,'' Mr Fontana said. ''We are just progressively getting more and more and we are still not scratching the surface. We are concerned at what we are seeing out there.''
Police say they are finding what appears to be a ''could not care less'' attitude among partygoers.
In 2008, drug detection dogs, trained to sit passively at the source of a suspect odour, attended 45 jobs that produced a total of 376 arrests.
Before the 200 arrests at the Creamfields blitz, the dogs had already been involved in 160 arrests on just eight jobs in Victoria this year.
Ambulance Victoria state events co-ordinator Jo Holland said drug users at raves could experience serious breathing difficulties, ''so much so that if we did not intervene they would die''.
She said the use of police dogs at such events always reduced the workload of medical staff.
Adriana Buccianti, whose 34-year-old son, Daniel, died after taking ''bad acid'' at the Rainbow Serpent Festival in Beaufort at the end of January, knows only too well the dangers.
The single parent received the knock on the door that all mothers dread, when police turned up at her Epping home. She had spoken to her son the previous night when he was at the festival. He had called her after a bad reaction to drugs taken at the event, saying ''it was the worst thing I had ever taken''.
She told him to go to hospital, but he called an hour later to say he was fine.
''I just do not know why I did not go that night,'' she said.
She knew her son took drugs, did not condone it, but did not think they would kill him.
''He told me that he could get them anywhere … every second person is a user, they get it from each other,'' she said.
''My son was just one of the unfortunates. People that are making so much money out of this do not give a damn … people do not understand what goes into this stuff.''
Like the police, she is still searching for answers.
''I think it needs to be a community approach, to find out what is missing in their lives. ''What is happening to our young that they need to have an altered state of consciousness to enjoy an outing?'' she said.
Mr Fontana said police would continue to target events with resources determined by police intelligence.
But one of the biggest problems was still the attitude towards drug use.
''It's just accepted, and that's the cycle we have to break.''