Contributed by Ben Wilson
This article expresses the views of locals who have confided what they feel about the illegal trade trade at their doorstep. They have been prepared to share a little of their story, most with the proviso that their identity is not disclosed. The fear of consequences for speaking out is real.
Samples that best represent the views of the speakers are reproduced below.
“Many here are sick of the anti-social behaviors. We loath and despise the fancy suited business types who head the criminal drug distribution network and never get their hands dirty”.
“We are angry at the decades of lack of proper activities by the various authority figures in past and present governments and government departments, who have failed to seriously address the issues until now”.
A shopkeeper said, “People around this area live in perpetual fear. Peoples’ fears are based on what they see on a daily basis in our local streets, doorways, car-parks, toilet blocks, shopping centres, even school and Kinder approaches.
“These fears are sometimes made worse in people’s, rather than the real extent of it and it exaggerates the real extent of the threat. Some never venture outside after dark. Others never go anywhere alone. Yet others see every drug affected person as a serious life threat, regardless of the reality of the circumstances. I hear them tell of those feelings every day”.
A local resident who goes by the name Ugly and recently played a prominent role in getting security doors fitted to the newer public housing flats, in the Elizabeth St Cooke Court area, was willing to be named. He said that “many of the people living in these flats say they had never felt safe in their homes, during the three years it took to force the department to fit the Crimsafe security doors. A woman of 71 said she that before the security doors were installed, she couldn’t sleep through the night, without waking in fear, from people trying her door in the small hours”.
Ugly explained that a lot of the information has been gathered about the area, to try and force governments to address this problem and support the push for a safe injecting room.
“Almost every day I pick up fits [syringe & needle[ from the streets and surrounding area.” he says, “Very often they are on the footpath, easily seen where little children could pick them up. The majority are near high foot traffic areas, where mothers with littlies pass by, even commonly near the infant minding place and the kindergarten in Cooke Court.
“Syringes are an interesting thing for the littlies, so the risk is high that they will be attracted to play with them.
“In Elizabeth St, I see mothers who might have have, say, one in the pusher and one or two at foot waiting for the pedestrian traffic lights. It is impossible to keep your eye 100 percent on all three kids, watch the traffic, watch the lights. It takes just a few milliseconds for a kid to pick up what has caught his or her eye.
“They also worry about the drug related anti-social behaviours that goes on all too frequently in this area. Some users even use the fire hydrant cupboards at the flat, as little injecting rooms”.
At the same time, Ugly insists that “we all need to see the drug issue in perspective. Nicotine is harder to give up than crack cocaine. The deaths in Australia from the two legal killer drugs, alcohol and tobacco, are about 19,000 plus per year. And some 5000 die from deliberately or accidentally ingesting prescription drugs. As terrible as it is, only 190 died in 2016 from the use of illegal drugs and many of these are likely to have deliberately taken their lives, because they have had enough of the addict lifestyle”.
“It makes sense therefore, to move toward decriminalising drug use, because the current illegality is meaningless, the law simply does not work at the local level”.
Ugly asserts that it is also vital that drug users respect the community into which they come.
“The drug trade, as it is happening on the street is a social nuisance and users need to be encouraged to desist from anti-social behaviour. This is respect and if it given, it is much more likely to be returned”.
Jeffrey who has also allows his name to be used, said: “I believe there is still some objection to an injecting room for this area. Those against claim that it will encourage addicts to the area and encourage usage. They are wrong, because they are already here”.
Jeffrey added that he “lived in Sydney until a couple of years ago and the Sydney injecting-room practice of over a decade, proves that the fear of the objectors is completely wrong. It has reduced use, the load on emergency service personnel has gone down, there are fewer fits in the street and surrounding area”.
A few other local traders had something to say as well.
A butcher said, “Dealers run into our shop and hide behind and under the counters when police come. They make threats at times they will break our windows if we say anything.
Another said, “I have had serious death threats made as well as arson and other threats to my business. Some people I know who were up the road have moved out of the area, and others are thinking of closing. There is worry over the growing ICE problems here as well.”
In relation to a safe injection room, Ugly’s point of view is that “it is much better to provide one injecting room instead of the several hundreds of unmonitored ‘unofficial injecting rooms’ we have now”.
“There are those who bleat about encouraging people to break the law. To them I say they need to ‘get real’, the law is an ass on this matter, a total farce” he said.
“It most has definitely shown in practice that it does not to work. There must be a different approach”.