Aussie Cops Recruit Junkies to Help Police the Streets
In desperation, Melbourne police have hatched a plan to recruit “influential” drug users, train them, and send them forth to advise their fellow junkies.
In a suburb of Melbourne, Australia, known as North Richmond, a vicious and well-established drug trade has operated with impunity, intimating area residents and businesses and littering the streets and alleys with throwaway syringes. Police and welfare workers told the Australian newspaper The Age that the warren of narrow laneways and public housing has made enforcement a nightmare. Simply stepping up police patrols has proven not only expensive, but also counterproductive, with addicts injecting quickly and publically to dodge the cops. “Public injecting is taking place within the housing estate laundries, car parks and local residential streets,” one health official told the paper. “There is also syringe littering, blood spills, and nuisance behavior.” A local resident complains that “they shoot up and my kids have to leave the house and see all that.”
In desperation, the police have hatched a plan to recruit “influential” drug users in the area, train them in harm reduction and counseling, and send them forth to advise their fellow junkies on “safer and more discreet ways of using.” Training will include workshops in overdose prevention, treatment of infections, and safe injecting practices. Harm Reduction Victoria, one of the agencies involved in the pilot program, said they were recruiting “people who have the authority to suggest this is not the best place to inject.” Officials expect that recruitment and training will take about two months and cost about $40,000.
Approaches like this, which acknowledge the existence of street markets for drugs, but attempt to use these markets as a bridge to connect addicts with public health services, are highly controversial in the U.S., but are sometimes used in Europe, Canada, and elsewhere.