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Meth 'a community killer'

METHAMPHETAMINE is killing the Tairawhiti community, says police area commander Inspector Sam Aberahama.

But he told Gisborne District Council’s Future Tairawhiti committee that police were launching a major programme to reduce family harm, in which methamphetamine played a large part, and he would be applying for extra staff for this.

“Methamphetamine is not for Tairawhiti,” he said.

“It is a huge drain and a killer of our community. Methamphetamine has a part in our crime.”

Police would walk up driveways to attend domestic incidents and the woman in the house would say “watch out, he's coming down off meth".

Users became very aggressive after two or three days of not sleeping, he said. Police staff were ready because methamphetamine had an effect on the body and the mind. The recent Operation Province was directed at a major methamphetamine group operating here for several months. It resulted in more than 30 search warrants and 48 arrests.

What they did needed to happen, but the after-care plan was even more important. It was a major change in his detectives’ thinking.

“I told my detectives that if we continue to smash doors down and go in with guns, it would have an impact on a number of people in that home, not just the drug dealer.

Referred to addiction servicesThe after-care plan referred 35 people to addiction services, which were told these people needed to be treated immediately. They did not want to wait in line. Of those, 33, or 94 percent, had not re-offended.

“We talk about family harm, whether we need more resources, what we are doing in that space, are we making a difference?

“It is not all about smashing and bashing down. We have got to look at our after-care plan for these whanau being in custody or on conditions, who are part of our community. We have to wake up and say what can I do to contribute to working with this whanau?

“That is the space that we are in at the moment. It is early days but the fact that there is whanau here engaged is a real testament to them.

“They want to change and they want to make a difference. They are going to get a bit wobbly at times and we are going to be standing right there alongside them.”

Family harm programmePolice were planning to launch a family harm programme and he would seek 12 extra staff for this to add to the present 140 staff.

There were three parts to the family harm programme: kaiawhina, family intervention teams, and high and complex needs.

He had spoken to the chief executives of local iwi to see how they could work together. A lot of the family violence, particularly at the lower level, could be turned around but a community approach was needed.

High and complex needs involved about 10 percent of family violence and required a problem solving approach. These cases were complex and you could not just go in and turn them around. There were some real complexities and methamphetamine was one of them.

“Extreme violence is another and we are talking decades of abuse,” he said.

Some of that might involve prison to make victims safe and CYFS might be involved for the children, but police then needed to have a long-term strategy. Three teams would operate across family harm.

“Actually, I could put 100 staff into that environment and see little change. It is about how we work with our community and councillors to better understand and support this kaupapa."

It was not about police acting alone.

“We really need to look at the strengths and opportunities within our communities, and you know what, we will make a difference,” he said.

Police had three key strategies: prevention first, turning of the tide and safer journeys. Everything they did linked to one or more of these. They could not do it alone.

The police lived in this community too and bought into it. Inspector Aberahama said he would be building a house in about four weeks.

“We are part of the community.”

Insp Sam Aberahama. File picture