High Alert is an apolitical campaign, but we are committed to working with every political party, drug-law reform organisation, anti-prohibitionist campaigner, night club, musician, and community member to get our message across.
Operation Safenight is not about whether drugs are good or bad. It's about a police state impinging upon our civil liberties.
If the aim is to save lives and keep the streets safe, how about implementing a protective drug policy? Drug decriminalisation? Pill testing? More safe injecting rooms?
The recreational users are not the criminals here.
"SSDP Australia supports the High Alert Campaign and looks forward to collaborating on public action, information distribution and advocating for the immediate cessation of the drug detection dog program.
If the state government and Victoria Police wanted an evidence-based response to the events in South Yarra earlier this year, they could have stepped up and iniatited a trial of drug checking services.
Congratulations on the campaign."
Harm Reduction Australia is committed to making the lives of all Australians safer by supporting policies and programs that reduce drug related harm.
We are therefore very proud to be a supporter of the High Alert initiative and its important efforts to reduce the unnecessary harm we see inflicted on young people from outdated drug policies, especially given far more effective and evidence based alternatives are available.
LEAP Australia fully endorses the contribution that HighAlert is making to ensure that police activities that target drug users in entertainment venues in Melbourne, conducted under a ‘War on Drugs’ approach, are scrutinized and legally accountable.
LEAP members and supporters speak out about the failures of our existing drug policies, such as the targeting of drug users. We call for an end to drug prohibition and the ‘War on Drugs’, which is not a war ‘on drugs’ but a ‘war on people’ that use drugs. LEAP Australia questions the effectiveness of a policy that leads to the injustice of mass incarceration, the senseless murders, drugs flowing freely in our communities, the lack of treatment and effective education, the corruption, billions of dollars going into the pockets of organised crime and the waste of your limited financial resources.
"As a Legal Studies Lecturer at RMIT University, I fully support this important initiative to highlight the dangers of drug detection dog use, inform people of their rights, and maximise police accountability.
I have been researching drug policing for the last 17 years, and over the last 18 months have been specifically focusing on the use and impacts of drug detection dogs in generalised public settings. My research is showing that the dogs don't deter most drug use, but instead simply encourage people to change the way they use drugs, often leading to more dangerous practices.
Other studies have shown the dogs only enable police to find drugs in about 1/4 of subsequent searches, raising serious questions about their appropriateness. This is especially so given that, as my research shows, being searched by the dogs and police also produces emotional and embodied trauma; embarrasses, stigmatises and criminalises people; reduces trust in police; and decreases willingness to seek help when in trouble.
Hopefully this campaign will catalyse a shift toward actual evidence-based practices of harm reduction: practices that will actually help to keep young people alive."
It’s a simple fact: sniffer dogs are wrong most of the time. That means people are subject to intrusive public searches and suggestions they are doing something illegal, when most of the time they are not. If someone has drugs and sniffer dogs are around, those people will often ‘get rid’ of those drugs by taking them all at once. We need less deaths from drugs – not more. Drug education, including the use of pill testing, is the most effective harm reduction strategy. All evidence shows that. That’s why the Australian Sex Party is against sniffer drugs but for evidence-informed drug education.
"I work in the security industry, mainly doing events and doofs. I have seen first hand what happens when there are sniffer dogs at events. It encourages dangerous behaviour like taking the day/days supply in one go to prevent getting caught, substances to be taken without it being measured, substances to be taken without being educated and they panic when things go wrong and they don't know how to correct it.
It causes friends to hide people away because they are scared to get help. It puts strain on time, resources and man power when we find an ill patron because patrons struggle to trust security when we try to assist and gather information for the medical teams or so we can treat appropriately while we wait for their arrival.
This mistrust and fear causes a wall between patrons and security (and crowd care workers) which increases danger, it does not reduce harm. These actions (along with lack of testing and lack of education because it is such a taboo subject) can have severe consequences, they lead to overdoses, which result in patrons becoming sick and needing hospital and sometimes, sadly result in death, when they could have been prevented."
"Drug use is everywhere; not solely licensed venues.
Treating everyday people as criminals for having a night out is not going to solve anything. Drug use will continue. Pill testing and similar initiatives are what is needed to ensure the safety of all patrons, rather than pointless scare tactics.
Focusing Police resources on youth education, the reduction of real crime (especially ALCOHOL related violence) and rehabilitating those with drug dependencies is what is needed."
"The Victorian AIDS Council opposes the use of drug detection (or sniffer) dogs because they are unreliable, ineffective interventions that increase the potential for drug-related harm. More broadly, drug prohibition is a failed policy. The War on Drugs has been ineffectual and damaging. Recreational drug users should not be treated as criminals. Rather than punitive measures, we need new approaches to addressing personal drug use that are focused on harm reduction, health and wellbeing."
I’ve been DJing in nightclubs and at events since 2001, and a punter for some years before that. In that time I encountered countless patrons using drugs and alcohol. I believe that alcohol and cigarettes are amongst the most dangerous of all drugs, and yet the government profits from, and regulates their production and sale. An argument against illegal drugs that I hear often from politicians and police is “you don’t know what you’re taking”. This is true, and if the intention of Operation Safenight was to genuinely look after the well being of citizens, the budget for this would be better spent on pill-testing, drug education and harm minimisation, rather than treating recreational drug use as a criminal matter.
For the most part I’d suggest that the behaviour of patrons in our nightclub districts at night is indicative of that displayed by the broader community on any given day: there are a handful of people with drug and alcohol problems, a small criminal element, and then a much larger group of well-behaved people trying to enjoy themselves. This would be true at a football match, at the races and in many businesses, and if we were to adjust the number of “well-behaved” a little lower, even in our State and Federal Governments. Why are these issues attacked in nightlife districts and other areas ignored?
I know people who are addicted to alcohol who are offered treatment for their illness without any suggestion of criminality. Meanwhile, people intending to take recreational drugs on an occasional basis are now met with the threat of prosecution prompted by an invasion of their privacy on the street. In this climate I am relieved to know there’s an organisation offering information and advice to those involved.
In my opinion, patrolling the streets with sniffer dogs and posing undercover as buyers of drugs does very little to deter drug use. Instead it defers the ‘problem’ away from drug use and creates a new problem of safety; moving people away from licensed establishments where the licensee is required to exercise a duty of care to their patrons and out into the unknown where the user is ‘safe’ only from prosecution.
If I’m thinking about safety at night I’m not worried as much about recreational drug use as I am about young women and other vulnerable citizens getting home safely amidst a culture of violence. Instead of sniffer dogs and patrols on the way into a venue, how about guide dogs and police escorts to safe access points for public transport upon exiting a venue?
I’m sympathetic to police and politicians wanting to appear that they are “doing everything they can” to prevent drug-related suffering, but I believe that most people frequenting our nightclub districts at night are not suffering, but celebrating. Leave them alone and let’s offer treatment and support to those that really need it.
It’s also worth discussing the potential economic and cultural impact of this approach. There’s a danger that this operation is the beginning of a conservative push against night trading reminiscent of that displayed in NSW in recent years. The people of Melbourne already demonstrated their distaste for lockout laws, but I believe Operation Safenight to be borne of a similar conservatism and misunderstanding of the economic and cultural value of our vibrant night time culture. I will do everything I can to stand up for the many operators and businesses that live and work for our fantastic night culture, and I’d like to offer thanks and full support to High Alert for attacking this issue on behalf of patrons.