News State Victoria Plans for community messaging to alert Victorians to dodgy drugs
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Plans for community messaging to alert Victorians to dodgy drugs

Overdoses may result in a trial of public warnings. Photo: AAP
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Victorians could soon be alerted to dodgy drug batches in a proposed trial after a spate of overdoses in a Melbourne party district.

Victoria Police is in talks with the Department of Health and Human Services to set up a community messaging system, a parliamentary inquiry into drug law reform has been told.

The move comes after dozens of people overdosed and several died on a drug alleging to be ecstasy in the Chapel Street night district in January.

“We are working working with Health and Human Services to actually trial a warning system,” Deputy Commissioner Wendy Steendam told the inquiry on Monday.

It would not necessarily be Victoria Police that leads the messaging, but health would issue the public warnings, she said.

While Victoria Police may take part in an early warning system for the community, it does not condone pill testing at events, the hearing was told.

Testing would blur the wider message that drugs were illegal and there would be unintended consequences of people taking harmful substances under the belief they’re safe, the police submitted.

The force will also be monitoring activity around the proposed safe injecting room in North Richmond to ensure it does not become a “honey pot” for heroin trafficking, Assistant Commissioner Rick Nugent told the inquiry.

“Hopefully the impact of some education awareness programs, investment by governments both in Australia and internationally is making a difference and people will make better choices now, I really hope so,” Mr Nugent said.

Australia, a nation of ice users

Earlier, the inquiry was told Australians are the world’s biggest consumers of the drug ice, on a per capita basis.

Up to 80 per cent of methamphetamine brought into Australia comes from China, where the chemicals used to make it can be legally sourced, Australian Federal Police’s Detective Superintendent Matt Warren said.

Since about 2010, Australian police have been seizing the finished drug, which is usually quite pure, instead of finding the precursor chemicals used for domestic manufacture.

“Simply because it’s economically sensible for the criminal groups involved,” Supt Warren said.

AFP Commander Bruce Hill, who was based in China until the start of 2017, told the inquiry most of Australia’s ice is coming from China.

“The time I was there, we were assessing it was 70-80 per cent of the ice coming into Australia was from China,” Mr Hill said.

That was crucial in getting the AFP to work with Chinese authorities to set up a taskforce targeting the export, he added.

The crystal methamphetamine coming into Australia was incredibly pure, about 80 per cent to 90 per cent purity, Mr Hill said.

Police are hoping the high purity and low price of ice was a sign Australia had reached saturation point.

-AAP