Monday, July 11, 2016

Gangs, Drugs & Money: Is New Zealand headed for another meth crisis?

When a life-long members of one of New Zealand's most notorious gangs stands in front of news cameras and says that New Zealand is well on the way for another epidemic of the drug "P" a.k.a methamphetamines, we should pay attention.  Gangs have been heavily involved in the manufacture and sale of drugs for as long as there have been gangs and drugs pretty much.  The members of Black Power who stood up publically to warn us of this impending crisis are the men on the front lines of the drug war.  They know what they are talking about.  The Drug Foundation of New Zealand, while still reluctant to call the increase in meth use an "epidemic," agree that use is increasing and are concerned that the problem isn't being reflected in the government statistics.  For those who don't know how the slow wheels of bureaucracy work, funding for drug treatment and other anti-drug programs are all based on those statistics, which presents a real possibility that not enough resources are being made available where they're most needed.

So, why would two life-members of a gang that profits, and profits large, from the sale of this drug come out and make these statements?  It's a bold move, and probably a fairly unpopular one with other members of Black Power, so I applaud these guys for their courage in taking a stand.  These men have seen the damage that meth use is doing to their communities and they are standing up and speaking out!

I don't think it's any coincidence that the increase in meth use comes at a time when homelessness is on the increase and poverty is at record levels.  For decades now, we have known about the correlation between poverty and increased levels of drug and alcohol use, so it comes as no surprise that meth use is on the up while the quality of life for low-income families is dropping like a lead balloon.  All the while, the NZ government sit on their hands and do nothing, dismissing the housing crisis, ignoring the homelessness problem, and pretending there is no meth epidemic.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying a change of government will magically fix these problems, but to do nothing, to refuse to take any action whatsoever is gross negligence in my opinion.  Will a different government do any better? I don't know, but I hope so.  In the meantime, I urge you, if you, or anyone you know is in the grip of meth addiction, don't be afraid to ask for help.  There are a number of organisations which can help and I will list as many of them as I can at the bottom of this post.

Ministry of Health Addiction Services Directory
Salvation Army Addiction Assistance - Help for Meth Addiction
Care NZ Drug and Alcohol Services
Alcoholics Anonymous
Alcohol & Drug Helpline: 0800 787 797
Youthline: 0800 376 633 or txt 234

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Two Weeks Too Long: Why NZ Needs a Child Abduction Alert System

In the 1960s and 70s, a succession of missing and murdered child cases impacted American society forever, and changed the way that law enforcement agencies in particular respond to missing child reports.  It was a lesson that the US had to learn the hard way, at the hands of serial murderers like Henry Lee Lucas and Ottis Toole, John Wayne Gacy, and Jeffrey Dahmer.  One of the parents at the forefront of those societal and procedural shifts was John Walsh, the man who most of you will remember as the host of America's Most Wanted.  But before he became a well-known TV personality, he was a father.  The father of a little boy who went missing one day at the mall, after his mother left him for only a few moments, watching some older boys play a video game while she went to the checkout.  When she returned only minutes later Adam Walsh, just 6-years-old, was gone.  The shy, bright eyed little boy was never seen alive again, and his murder went unsolved for many years until a drifter was arrested in Texas on a firearms charge.  That drifter was Henry Lee Lucas, and when he, and his sometime partner Ottis Toole started confessing to literally hundreds of murders across the US, law enforcement agencies from around the country began dusting off their cold case files and hot-footing it to Texas to speak to the talkative pair of serial killers.  It was Ottis Toole who eventually confessed to the murder of Adam Walsh,  and described kidnapping the boy from just outside a Sears department store in Hollywood, Florida.  I won't go into the disgusting details of the crime, because this isn't a post about Ottis Toole, or Henry Lee Lucas, or even Adam Walsh.  This is a post about how New Zealand should be learning from other countries mistakes, and how not doing so could be putting lives at risk.

Adam Walsh was just 6-years-old when he went missing, so the police response to his disappearance was immediate and heavy, but that wasn't the experience for many parents of missing children in the US.  For years parents were told that their children had just run away, they'd come home eventually, that it wasn't a priority for police who had "real" crimes to solve.  Police departments made parents of even very young missing children wait the requisite 48 hours before they would lodge a missing persons report, and even when a report was lodged, no action would be taken.  Parents had to mount their own searches, post their own missing posters and flyers canvassing the public's help in finding their children.  When the bodies were found, if they were found, police would make excuses for their inaction with the old saw that they were "only following procedure."  Clearly, it was those procedures that needed to change, and change they did.   In 1984 The National Centre For Missing and Exploited Children was established to act  as a resource for parents, children, law enforcement agencies, schools, and communities to assist in locating missing children and to raise public awareness about ways to prevent child abduction and exploitation.  In 1996 the AMBER alert system was implemented to broadcast information about missing children across emergency channels, radio stations, TV channels, electronic billboards and online.  

Earlier this year the AMBER alert system played a crucial role in distributing information about an abducted girl taken by her uncle, who was later found and rescued by members of the public.  Which brings us back to the boy who's picture is at the top of this post.  Chicaine Erihe has been missing since June 24th, but police are only today releasing that information and beginning to canvas for the public's assistance in finding him.  Chicaine has been a runaway in the past, but that doesn't change the fact that he's been missing for two weeks now.  I hope he is found safe and sound, but what if it's already too late?  What if he's already come to harm or being targeted by the kind of predatory scumbags who prey on at-risk youth?  What is alerting the public two weeks ago could have made a difference?

New Zealand's population is growing at a faster rate than ever, and we are fools to think that this country is a safe-haven where "that sort of thing" can't happen.  We NEED a child abduction alert system before it's too late.