DRUG crime in Campaspe Shire has more than tripled in the past two years.
According to new figures from the Crime Statistics Agency, Campaspe’s drug offences went from 35 in 2014 to 117 last year.
The 234 per cent jump is the highest increase in the state.
Campaspe also recorded the state’s second-highest increase in methamphetamine or ice offences.
Thirty-nine ice offences were recorded last year, compared to just four in 2014 — a staggering 875 per cent increase.
The only area that recorded a bigger rise was Warrnambool with 900 per cent.
Assistant Commissioner Rick Nugent last week told the Herald Sun that ice cartels are infiltrating rural communities across Victoria and regional towns are now the front line in the battle against drugs.
With Shepparton and Bendigo flagged as the new ice hotspots in the battle against ice, it won’t be long before Echuca starts to feel the effects.
Campaspe’s Acting Inspector, Craig Gaffee, said drug use in the community continued to be a significant concern for police.
‘‘The evidence clearly shows that drug harm is not going away and no area is immune,’’ he said.
‘‘Drugs cause harm to a person every time they are consumed: on the user and the user’s family and friends. This damage can also ripple throughout the community, with drug driving, drug-fuelled violence and heightened risk taking.’’
To drive down the harm caused by drugs, Insp Gaffee said police would continue to target drugs that caused the most harm in the community.
‘‘Education, prevention and early intervention initiatives, along with referrals into treatment to tackle demand, are all vital in addressing the issue of drug harm,’’ he said.
With the Victorian Government providing $195.6 million under the Ice Action Plan launched in 2015, Mental Health Minister Martin Foley said it was working on the issue.
However, Mental Health Shadow Minister Emma Kealy told Campaspe News not enough was being done to tackle the scourge.
‘‘We’re in the grips of an ice epidemic and stronger action needs to be taken,’’ she said.
‘‘If we were elected, we would look at a three-point plan that would improve education and awareness for younger people ... see improved access to rehabilitation, stronger enforcement ... and better punishments and deterrents.’’
Ms Kealy said the figures showed the drug problem, particularly ice, was obviously growing in Campaspe Shire, which was concerning.
‘‘Ice is such a devastating drug and it’s just not good enough that people are having to wait for up to a year for a rehabilitation bed,’’ she said.