Minor crime funding habit, officer says

Mosgiel residents hooked on legal highs are resorting to crime to pay for their habit, the community's top cop says.

Sergeant Kevin Davidson, of Mosgiel police, made the comments at last week's Mosgiel Taieri Community Board meeting, where he called legal highs ''absolutely abhorrent'' and said he supported them being banned.

Parliament is expected to pass the measure this week.

Emphasising it was his ''personal'' view and there was no ''proof'' behind his theory, Sgt Davidson said he believed people taking legal highs were resorting to ''minor thefts'', such as shoplifting, to fund their habits.

''We would assume that a large number of people responsible for those thefts are gaining money to buy legal highs.''

However, it had not resulted in an increasing number of thefts, with legal highs probably only taking the place of other drugs.

It was inevitable the drug would go underground once it was banned, he said.

''I think anything people don't want you to have, whether it is mum and dad saying you can't have it or [it is illegal], there is going to be a market for it.''

Speaking to the Taieri Times after the meeting, he said the ''horrible stuff'' had anecdotally been involved in a lot of police callouts, especially for domestic violence.

The argument that banning the substances drove them underground was irrelevant to police, who ended up ''mopping up'' the ill effects regardless, he said.

Mosgiel-Taieri Community Board chairman Bill Feather told the Taieri Times it was difficult to gauge the impact of legal highs in Mosgiel, but the impending ban was welcome.

''Just how nasty it's become will probably become evident as those that take it now, their sources dry up,'' he said.

He said border control measures would need to be strong to ensure legal highs did not enter the country after the ban.

The community identified the issue as a problem at an early stage and tried to minimise the harm, including asking retailers not to stock them, he said.

East Taieri Church senior pastor the Rev Dr Martin Macaulay, in a statement, said the church welcomed the decision to ban legal highs until the proper testing regime to control them was established.

''The abuse of legal highs has been shown to have a harmful impact on users, especially the young and vulnerable.

''We, along with other churches and organisations serving the community, are forced to deal with the fallout from such abuse, so we are pleased that Parliament has responded to the nationwide calls to ban their sale.''

Dr Macaulay said the church remained concerned about drugs and alcohol abuse.

''New Zealand's binge-drinking culture continues to place considerable strain on our hospitals and courts and, most importantly, on our families.

''We need to work together as a community, and as a country, to address the unhealthy attitudes underlying this behaviour.''


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