Border closures in Western Australia have hit the drug trade hard, doubling the street price of methamphetamine, state police say.
The state’s borders shut in early April amid the COVID-19 pandemic, halting all imports of illicit drugs from the eastern states.
This in turn prompted drug users to find other substances, and scarcity of ‘ice’ sent the price skyrocketing.
The limited access to illicit drugs also caused tensions within the state’s prisons, as found by a federal parliamentary inquiry into COVID-19 criminal activity.
A submission into the inquiry by WA Police said the border closures had ‘undoubtedly’ contributed to an increase in prices of illegal substances.
‘Illicit drugs became increasingly difficult to source, increasing prices within the metropolitan and southwest areas. It was reported in May 2020 that methylamphetamine was extremely difficult to source,’ the submission said.
‘The price of methylamphetamine effectively doubled at this time. Addicted users are suffering the effects of reduced supply, with reductions in purity also being reported to maintain drug sales.’
This resulted in a jump in attempts from inmates trying to smuggle drugs in through mail, with police saying there was ‘ongoing tensions’ in the state’s prison system.
But the lockdown also resulted in a drastic decrease in crime within Aboriginal communities.
Kalgoorlie, which is around 600km north-east of Perth had a 71 per cent drop in burglary offences between March and June as compared to the previous year.
The town also had a 59 per cent reduction in theft, and property damage offences fell by 33.5 per cent.
While alcohol and burglary related offences dropped as people were confined to their homes, police said the flipside was a spike in incidences of domestic violence.
‘In contrast, Metropolitan Region crime statistics have shown a significant increase in family violence assaults and threatening behaviour offences since the beginning of March 2020,’ the submission said.
Western Australia is yet to announce when its borders will open but the second wave in Victoria had set the timetable back significantly.
Premier Mark McGowan said the state may remain closed until the end of the year.
‘The chances are border closures will go for months and months and months,’ Premier Mark McGowan said.
‘As to whether it’s before the end of the year, as to whether it’s before the middle of next year, I cannot put a date on it.’