Operation Elizabeth

Last week, I applauded Victoria Police’s Operation Entity (see Up In Smoke). Today, we returned to the more familiar dismal, pointless War on Drugs.

Operation Elizabeth is a street level operation targeting heroin and related crime in the inner city suburbs of Richmond, Fitzroy and Collingwood.

It could be more accurately described as Operation Council Flats because it is the residents of these vertical ghettoes that feel the heat of these periodic blitzes.

Today, officers from several stations descended on Victoria St Richmond to hit Vietnamese street dealers. Not surprisingly, the cops found a few and their sad clients carrying a gram or two of smack, no doubt more glucose or baking powder than opiate.

Police allowed the media to tag along for some “dramatic” footage of some miserable bedraggled junkies being taken down.  That was the most pathetic aspect, letting everyone know that we are tough on drugs, the humiliation of people whose crime is to be addicted to an evil substance. Shame them in the media, throw them in jail and they won’t be sorry just guilty.  They have nothing more than a health problem, an addiction to heroin. And no amount of jail will change that.

This is a new episode of a long-running story. Here’s a story of the results of the last blitz in March this year: Herald Sun – Police blitz drugs, street crime arrest 96 in Richmond, Collingwood, Fitzroy

Ninety-six arrests in March, another handful yesterday but not a single one has any real long term effect beyond the media sound bite. The only positive in March was that 20 people were referred to health and social welfare, of which 15 remained on the programme.

Residents of the Richmond flats have been complaining to me that the cops have rarely been seen in recent times.  People have stopped reporting crime. They know the names and apartment numbers of the dealers, but if they dob them in, the dealers will come back at them. That’s a very sensible notion. It’s unlikely that a fool caught with a few grams of shit heroin will end up in jail, unless he has lots of priors or a taste for violence.

It’s a well-established marketplace. People come from other areas to the flats to sell or buy heroin. A woman shot a man in the leg by the flats a few months back over a drug deal gone wrong. Everyone knew who did it but didn’t share the knowledge with police. Why get involved, they say. This was justice of a sort, he deserved what he got. Leave it alone and get on with life.  But the stats say reported crime is down. Rest easy people.

A few months ago, I broke the law. I ignored a no entry sign into a two-way street near my house. It’s there to stop drivers from other council areas doing a rat run into the city via back streets. A cop jumped out and booked me. I copped the $200 fine. He looked pleased: he must have booked 50 cars that afternoon. I couldn’t help but ask him whether he would be returning next week.  No, he replied. VicPol wouldn’t have the resources for that. So what was the point? I could offend again next week certain he wouldn’t be there to catch me. He agreed.

I remembered that when the story on Elizabeth ran on the evening news tonight. The newsreader went on to say that 3000 officers would deployed to hit drink driving over the Christmas period.

And meanwhile, the heroin dealers and their customers would go back to business in the flats, certain that the TV people and their photogenic police wouldn’t return for at least another six months.

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