Drug boxes to make parties safer

21:06, Dec 16 2012

Secure boxes to hold illicit drugs seized at parties may be rolled out nationwide after the success of an Auckand project to make dance parties safer.

Safer Dance Parties Together was launched by the former Auckland City Council in conjunction with Auckland police in 2008 to reduce the harm of alcohol and other drugs at city dance parties, large music festivals and events. 

Auckland hosts the largest number of and biggest dance parties in the country.

The project had three focuses - giving training to security officers to search for drugs, providing lockable drug security boxes for storing seized drugs at events and having safe zones with volunteer supporters on hand.

According to the agenda for this week's council Community Safety Forum, when the project was introduced there was a marked increase in the number of drugs seized but as party goers got used to being searched they became better at hiding them.

A recent review of the project found it had been "effective in reducing the harm of alcohol and other drugs at dance parties and music events  . .  [and] industry stakeholders [are] taking more responsibility for patron safety and creating a safer, well-managed environment with resources in place to protect patrons".

Drug boxes had been a success because prior to 2008 there was no established procedure in New Zealand for the seizure, storage and disposal of drugs found on party goers.

"The venues that did confiscate drugs during point of entry searches stored the drugs insecurely and disposed of them as they saw fit," the agenda said.

The boxes enabled drugs to be safely held without the person securing them committing an offence, and eliminated the possibility of them going back into the community. 

Police had signalled their interest in rolling out the drug box concept nationwide, the agenda said.

The evaluation also found there were a number of problems at dance parties, including limited available water because of profit making, minimal training of security staff to "enable consistent understanding of intoxication levels and enhance training on illicit drug searches", and preloading by event goers.

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