Illawarra 'ice' age worries police

A ‘‘skyrocketing’’ number of mental health patients addicted to the drug ice in the Illawarra is putting extra pressure on police, according to Wollongong crime manager Tim Beattie.

This week, three men aged 29, 31 and 35 appeared in Wollongong Local Court charged with drug offences after police conducted raids last Friday, seizing 714 grams of ice and a quantity of prescription drugs.

The value of the ice, seized from properties in Port Kembla, Sussex Inlet, Vincentia and Sanctuary Point, was estimated to be between $140,000 and $150,000.

Detective Inspector Beattie described the effect of ice on the community as ‘‘insidious’’.

‘‘Methamphetamine and ice can often lead to violent situations and quite often have a link with mental illness,’’ he said.

‘‘People who use those drugs have a really dire outcome as far as their mental health is concerned and that’s something police have to deal with more often.

‘‘The amount police have [contact] with mental health patients is skyrocketing and it [ice] makes the policing job so much harder in dealing with these people.’’

According to the NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research, the number of Wollongong incidents involving amphetamine dealing or trafficking was five times the state average last year.

The Wollongong LGA recorded a deal/traffic amphetamine incident rate of 103.2 per 100,000 of population, compared with a state average of 21.7.

The only local government areas with worse rates were Bourke, Albury, and Queanbeyan.

Wollongong’s use/possess amphetamine incident rate was 100.3 per 100,000, also above the state average of 70 per 100,000.

 Shellharbour scored a use/possess rate of 118 per 100,000, while Shoalhaven recorded a much lower rate of 42.3. Kiama, meantime, recorded a use/possess rate of just 9.6 per 100,000 of population.

BOCSAR’s two-year trend indicated rates of using and dealing for the region were ‘‘stable’’.

Insp Beattie said ice addiction was not a problem limited to the Illawarra.

‘‘It’s not just a problem in NSW, it’s across the whole world,’’ he said.

‘‘There is prevalent drug use throughout the state, it’s an ongoing battle police have.

 ‘‘It’s something we take very seriously and we will prosecute those found to be in possession and those supplying.’’

Insp Beattie called on members of the community, particularly parents, to be more aware of the dangers ice posed.

 ‘‘It’s not just down to government agencies to deal with this,’’ he said.

‘‘Parents need to get involved, know what their kids are doing, and understand just how addictive these drugs can be and their influence on families, not just the individuals that take these drugs.

‘‘It’s an insidious drug and it impacts all society.’’