Our View (14-8-2018): Society’s problem

A SECOND siege within a month has put Wallaroo on the map for all the wrong reasons.

While the town should be increasingly known for its beauty, beach life, rich history and now-bustling main street, instead people are now discussing it as a “crime capital”. Without diminishing the seriousness of these recent events at all, let’s not go nuts.

The truth is, problems with crime are not isolated to Wallaroo, or any other town. Associated issues, especially the prevalence of ice use, are creating headaches for law enforcement. If you think Wallaroo is worse than any other region of the peninsula you might be surprised.

In both sieges police locked down sections of the town, but couldn’t trap their suspects. The young man who was on the run last month seemingly slipped the police cordon overnight. Yesterday, the house officers had focused on was vacant all along. People might be inclined to criticise the police for their handling of these situations. But we must remember all these measures — blocking off roads, bringing in the STAR Group and dog squads — were taken to ensure the safety of the public. The police are doing their best to protect the community, but they are fighting an uphill battle.

The United States started a “war on drugs” in the early-1970s. Almost half a century later the war has clearly been lost. Countries such as Portugal have decriminalised possession and consumption of illicit drugs, sending people to doctors instead of jail. Since introducing the policy in 2001, Portugal’s rates of drug-related crime have gone down, as have its rates of problem drug use, overdose deaths and, of course, incarceration. I can’t see Australia adopting a similar change, at least not anytime soon. But it’s clear new approaches are needed. Reducing the harm from drugs has to start with education and include a stronger focus on health.

Until then Wallaroo will be emblematic of the issue. In the near future it will be some other town in another part of the state, and then somewhere else, because this is not Wallaroo’s problem, it’s society’s problem.

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