Politics

Police Are Arresting Huge Numbers Of Young People In Low-Income Areas For Drug Driving

New data has raised questions about who the police target for drug tests.

Drug Testing Cocaine

Over the past year there has been a 320 percent increase the number of people charged with drug driving offences in NSW, with young people and residents of low-income areas making up the bulk of the arrests, according to new data released by the state’s crime statistics agency.

The data from the Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research (BOCSAR) shows that 9,800 people faced drug driving charges in NSW last year, compared to just 2,300 the year before. The BOCSAR report also acknowledges that “it seems likely that the increase in charges is a reflection of increased law enforcement activity rather than an increase in actual drug driving.”

This means that the huge increase in arrests isn’t actually the result of more people taking drugs and driving, but instead it’s the result of a significantly ramped up police effort to drug test drivers. So who are the cops testing?

A couple of weeks ago Junkee reported on accusations from the NSW Greens that police drug tests were targeting the poor. The police currently test for drugs more likely to be used by younger Australians from low-socioeconomic backgrounds like cannabis and methamphetamine, but they don’t test for cocaine or benzos (which were statistically much more likely to cause accidents).

Well, according to the new data, the overwhelming majority of drug driving offenders are young, with 72 percent of those charged aged 18 to 39. The geographic areas with the highest number of offenders per capita are the Richmond-Tweed area on the NSW North Coast and the south-west suburbs of Sydney.

The median income in the Richmond-Tweed area is $36,000 per year, well below the national median income of $45,000. Youth unemployment in the area is over 17 percent, 5 percent higher than the state average.

People living in Richmond-Tweed are 46 times more likely to be convicted of drug driving offences than those living on Sydney’s North Shore. The North Shore, Northern Beaches and Inner West all have far lower levels of drug driving offences according to the BOCSAR data. They also have median incomes well above the national average.

The Greens feel that this new data backs up their argument. “These extraordinary discrepancies can’t be explained by differences in the level of drug driving,” the NSW Greens justice spokesperson, David Shoebridge said.

“There is no question that the police are targeting drug driving tests against those parts of the state that are less wealthy. It’s more class warfare from the Coalition government. South west Sydney and the regions are facing a surge in drug driving convictions while residents in areas of privilege are getting a free ride.

“This confirms why the Greens are so opposed to the flawed roadside drug testing regime. It targets the poor, doesn’t test for impairment and fails to pick up cocaine and benzos. Mobile drug testing isn’t about road safety, it’s just another part of the failing war on drugs being fought by police against people without money or influence,” he said.

Junkee contacted NSW Police over these earlier allegations, and were referred to the Centre for Road Safety. They did not respond to our inquiries.

Feature image via YouTube