Sharp rise in P-linked crimes, court records show

Photo: ODT files
Photo: ODT files
The number of offences related to methamphetamine use on the West Coast has escalated sharply, court records show.

Figures released to the Greymouth Star in response to an Official Information Act request reveal a total of 44 cases involving the drug, also known as 'P', were handled by the court last year.

On June 15, a former barman at the Australasian Hotel in Greymouth, Wayne Stretch, was convicted of stealing $1700 from the till and for his part in a $13,000 fraud against Mitre 10, claiming that meth had played a part in the offending.

Judge Gary MasAskill said that was no excuse.

In June, a West Coast woman admitted stealing her grandmother's jewels to help pay for her $800-a-day P habit.

Of the 44 meth court cases heard in Greymouth last year, six were for dealing or trafficking, two for manufacturing, 15 for possession and/or use with 21 others classified as for other offences.

That was more than double the 2016 Greymouth court figures, which totalled 19, while in 2015 it was 14. In each of these years no offences were related to the manufacture of meth.

A total of five cases in 2015, and seven in 2016 were for possession and/or use, with "other offences" totalling four in 2015, and 10 in 2016.

The figures present figures for court proceedings involving at least one meth offence irrespective of whether it was the most serious offence.

In 2016 there were three meth-related driving offences and four in 2017, all of which resulted in court action.

A study released recently by the Automobile Association found 79 drivers involved in fatal crashes in New Zealand last year later tested positive for drugs compared to 70 who were above the alcohol limit or refused to be tested.

The AA said it believed it was the first time drugs had overtaken alcohol.

West Coast police area commander Inspector Mel Aitken said to label the West Coast as having a "major" meth problem would be wrong.

"But we see the increased availability and presence of meth as a growing concern," Mrs Aitken said.

Staff numbers in area tactical units for the West Coast, Marlborough and Nelson Bays had increased within the past year, she said.

"As one of the identified drivers of crime, all police are tasked with targeting the supply of meth and preventing the social harm it causes.

"The District Organised Crime Unit based at Tasman district headquarters have meth as a focus area. They co-ordinate and assist with investigations conducted by CIB and tactical units."

Mrs Aitken said meth was being sourced and distributed through a number of channels: "There is not one chief source."

Staff were constantly facing situations that were inherently dangerous, she said.

"These require constant risk assessments and wise decision making in order to enable our staff to remain safe while carrying out their purpose, which is to keep our communities safe."

Westport lawyer Doug Taffs said meth continued to be a significant problem in the town, especially among younger people.

"I would say it's been a problem for the last five years and I haven't seen any improvement. A lot of it is to do with unemployment and a lack of opportunity, but I'm not an expert."

- By Chris Tobin

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