Police To Deploy Sniffer Dogs At Splendour Despite Appeals

Despite an appeal from Art Vs Science‘s Dan McNamee to trial a sniffer-dog free year at the upcoming Splendour In The Grass festival, NSW police have announced drug-detection dogs will be in force at the event in Byron Bay this weekend.

Speaking to triple j‘s Hack today, NSW police drug squad commander Detective Superintendent Tony Cooke said while he appreciated McNamee’s contribution to the debate, sniffer dogs will continue to be present at music festivals.

“The clear position for us is they [the dogs] provide a very significant deterrent value,” the Detective Superintendent said. “At the end of the day the drugs are illegal and we will continue to enforce the law.”

“There’s no such things are recreational drugs,” he added. NSW Police confirmed the presence of sniffer dogs at festivals in a statement this week. “Anyone planning to bring illegal drugs to the Parklands should expect to get caught,” said Local Area Commander Superintendent Stuart Wilkins. “There will be uniformed and plain-clothes police, and drug-detection dogs patrolling in and around the festival and campgrounds.”

Earlier this month, Dan McNamee penned a letter to his local member appealing for a trial year without the use of sniffer dogs so as to reduce the incidents of panicked overdoses. “I have seen this first hand,” writes McNamee. “People being led out of the festival to ambulances, eyes rolling in their heads. Concerned and panicking friends following and being told to try to relax. It’s a horrid sight.”

“A police presence which focusses on stopping truly anti social behaviour – violence and aggression is all that is needed,” wrote the musician. “People who are allowed to ingest drugs without the fear of a lifetime criminal record will have a new fear: the drug itself.”

Following that plea a study of 500 New South Wales festivalgoers conducted by the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre confirmed that the presence of dogs at festivals did lead to an increase in the number of people who’d use at least some of the drugs outside the venue.

The study also found a 40 percent increase in the relative amount of consumption of ecstasy, methamphetamine and other drugs, as opposed to using cannabis, for reasons they think are to do with reducing their potential risk of detection by the dog.

Still NSW police say drug detection dogs will be a part of their high-visibility operation at Splendour this weekend along with a Public Order and Riot Squad, Operations Support Group, Traffic and Highway Patrol Command and Police Transport Command.

“Splendour in the Grass is the biggest winter music festival in Australia and the focus of the police operation is to make it memorable for the right reasons,” Supt Wilkins said. “We will be targeting illegal drug use and supply, underage drinking, alcohol-related violence and anti-social behaviour.

“Those who choose to commit crime, breach Splendour’s terms and conditions, behave unsafely or otherwise try to ruin the event for others will be dealt with accordingly.”

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