By Connor Foley
The number of illicit drug offences among youths nationwide grew significantly in 2016–17 despite an overall decrease in total drug offences, while South Australia had the highest drug offence rate across all states and territories.
Recent figures released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics show the youth drug offender rate increased by 30 per cent from the previous period but overall drug offences decreased by three per cent, the first decline in a decade.
Total youth offences decreased for the seventh consecutive year despite the increases, suggesting either authorities are targeting young people or there is a widespread drug problem among young Australians.
19-year-old student Daniel from Prospect is a former drug dealer and believes authorities tend to focus on younger people.
“Personally, I have seen numerous random searches of teens suspected of drug possession in the city but am yet to see any older groups targeted,” he said.
“I think the authorities see the older age range as a lost cause, whereas targeting the youth they have an opportunity to put a complete stop to it.
“South Australia has a drug culture that correlates with being a festival state and our relaxed and art-based social culture.
“Our drug possession laws are less forceful than those of other states, which could either be a driver or a result of South Australia’s culture.”
Illicit drugs are of greatest concern for South Australia who had a nine per cent increase in offences for illicit drugs in 2016, which at 34 per cent of all offences is the highest rate in Australia.
The youth offender rate was also the second highest of all states and territories in 2016 with 2,784 offenders per 100,000 persons.
Nearly a fifth of these were drug related.
The data comes following Adelaide recently being named ‘the ice capital of Australia’ according to a study that showed it has the highest usage nationwide with 80 doses per 1000 people a day.
A spokesperson for SA Police said they are working to stop all drug supply, particularly Amphetamine-Type Stimulants (ATS), regardless of a person’s age.
“SAPOL is focused on targeting all local traffickers and producers,” they said.
“We are concentrated on ATS in particular as ice is a major problem for all communities… it causes major social issues and results in significant social costs.
“This is all being done through Operation Atlas, which has seen strong results since its initiation.”
While the statistics suggest increased drug use for young people, the most recent National Drug Strategy Household Survey said otherwise.
The 2016 figures show those aged 14–19 had minor declines in drug use between 2013 and 2016 and overall use had significantly decreased since 2001.
Meanwhile drug use has increased over a third for people in their 40s and nearly doubled for those in their 50s since 2001.
According to a report by The Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission, released this year, there has ben an overall increase in illicit drug consumption across the country.
The report cited Methamphetamine as the continued drug of choice, with the highest meth consumption detected in Adelaide and regional Western Australia.
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