Meth in the city

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Southland area investigations manager Detective Senior Sergeant Stu Harvey.

In Detective Senior Sergeant Stu Harvey’s 27 years’ experience with New Zealand Police, he has seen the harm methamphetamine has caused and it does not discriminate. Abbey Palmer reports on the toll the drug has taken on the community.

ABOUT 200 to 300 grams of methamphetamine is consumed in Invercargill each week – up to 9000 “hits” in the city every seven days.

Southland area investigations manager Detective Senior Sergeant Stu Harvey said it was important for people to understand how common the drug was in the city.

“It’s interesting it’s not the same in other cities in the southern district. Queenstown and Dunedin don’t have the same problem we have down here.”

While amounts consumed in Invercargill varied, it was estimated about 200-300g was used per week, which had a street value of about $160,000 to $240,000 per week, and between $8.3-$12.5 million a year, he said.

Although the weight might not seem like a lot, 1g of methamphetamine could last up to about 30 “hits”, also known as “points”, for one user.

During the past four to five years, wastewater testing had revealed a “pretty consistent” reality of the usage level in Invercargill, where methamphetamine made up 70% of the illicit drugs detected.

The “social cost” of the drug was one of its most damaging consequences, Det Snr Sgt Harvey said.

“Especially for people that get addicted, it ruins their lives and not even just that, it ruins their family’s lives and breaks them apart.

“People will do whatever it takes to get hold of it [once they’re addicted].”

Det Snr Sgt Harvey said he often saw methamphetamine addiction lead to suicide, an increase in violence, stealing, family harm-related incidents and a general rise in the volume of crime in the community.

It was more common for those 18 years and older to get hold of the drug, he said.

“It comes with a lot of violence and guns, people become really paranoid.

“Often sellers are selling to use and they don’t care about the harm it causes, because their goal is to fund their habit.”

While gangs played a part in the distribution and consumption of the drug in Invercargill, it was “not necessarily” always the case, he said.

“Gangs are heavily involved in it [the drug trade], but it also involves individuals working with gangs as well, on that lower level of distribution.”

The horror of methamphetamine was it did not discriminate.

In Det Snr Sgt Harvey’s 27 years of experience with New Zealand Police, he had seen people from all walks of life fall victim to its harm.

“It’s not just lower socio-economic groups getting hooked on it. I’ve seen a lot of good people with really good lives who are not from a lower socio-economic background affected by it too,” he said.

“It has exactly the same effect no matter who you are, and it’s very hard to come out of that.”

Det Snr Sgt Harvey stressed the importance of looking out for any identifying signs of drug use within families, so those people could be supported to get the help they needed.

“It’s only when it becomes personal and it affects a family that you really start thinking ‘how bad is this thing?’. But there is assistance available and Police urge people affected by this drug to get help.”

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