Saturday 28 May 2011

Heroin - part VIII

In one of my recent posts, I tried to trawl through the research to determine how much heroin is consumed in NSW each year, and what that costs. Depending on what assumptions you make about how many addicts there are, how much they inject each time and how many times they inject per day, it could be anywhere between 1.2 and 3 tons per year. Or it could be way outside those boundaries.

Without going down to Kings Cross and trying to score, I have to base the retail price on what the research tells me - that it's around $320 per gram.

1.2 tons is 1.2 million grams.

3 tons is 3 million grams.

That puts the retail trade in NSW as somewhere in the vicinity of $390 to $960 million per year. Or it could be way outside those boundaries.

Since retail purity is around the 50% mark, that means only half those amounts of pure heroin need to be imported each year.

And how is all that funded?

Heroin users are prone to resort to crime to fund their purchases of heroin.  Law  estimate that the number of dependent heroin users in Australia increased from about 670 in 1967 to about 67,000 by 1997.  Heroin dependence has been a particularly prominent problem in NSW.  This State has about a third of Australia’s population but, between 1979 and 1995, accounted for more than half of all those placed on methadone treatment and just under half of all fatal opioid overdoses.
Proceeding on this basis we estimate that, since 1966, each 10 per cent increase in the annual number of dependent heroin users has led to a 6 per cent increase in the NSW robbery rate.  By comparison, each 10 per cent decrease in the robbery clear-up or imprisonment rate has led to a 3-4 per cent increase in robbery.

A significant proportion of the funds expended on purchases of heroin are raised through the commission of property crime.  A 1984 survey of imprisoned NSW property offenders, for example, found that 50 per cent of those who identified themselves as regular heroin users stated that heroin use had increased the amount of property crime they committed.

Those who described themselves as ‘heavy’ users of heroin committed armed robberies 1.8 times more frequently and break, enter and steal offences 1.7 times more frequently than those who described themselves as ‘light’ users of heroin.  
The observation that regular heroin use amplifies of ending frequency amongst those involved in crime has been confirmed in other studies.  
Blumstein, Cohen, Roth and Visher, for example, cite evidence that daily heroin users committed robberies and burglaries, respectively, at rates which were 2.9 and 4.7 times higher than ‘infrequent’ users of the drug.

And another income source:

The majority of the sample (86%) reported that  they were currently unemployed or receiving government benefits. Seventy-nine percent of the sample  reported that their main source of income over the preceding month had been a pension or government benefit, while 7% reported a wage or salary, 9% nominated criminal activity and 3% reported sex work
The libertarian in me says that if you want to snort, smoke or inject heroin, then that's your business and I really don't give a rat's. I like this view of libertarianism:

"Libertarianism is the view that each person has the right to live his life in any way he chooses so long as he respects the equal rights of others"

Respecting the equal rights of others means not breaking into their property and stealing their stuff, or accosting them on the street and robbing them, or committing fraud against other taxpayers (ie, the government) or businesses. I am not very worried about heroin use; what I can't stand is the consequences - the screwed up children of addicts, the billions poured into social services, the heavy handed policing and the property crime that is a major embuggerance to every citizen.

I can't stand the idea that I am paying taxes to support a class of bludgers who, when freed of the need to do 35-40 hours of paid employment each week (plus the time required to travel to and from work) have plenty of free time to steal from the rest of us.

But this series is not about me ranting about certain things. It's about questioning whether a safe injecting room in Kings Cross is good public policy. Given the crime stats that I've just quoted, the first question that comes to mind is, "What impact does a safe injecting room have on the crime stats?"

Over to you.

1 comment:

cav said...

Should they legalise hereoin?