K2 drug a terror in communities - police

21:42, May 03 2013

It's another night in Invercargill and an 18-year-old is brought into the police station after smashing up his family home, off his face on K2.

A few hours later, two 15-year-olds are brought in after stealing items from a car. They are found to be high on K2.

Earlier in the week, a 17-year-old male broke into an empty house, smashing the window with his bare hands and leaving a trail of blood on the walls. He then broke into an occupied house next door and stole women's clothes. He has consumed a cocktail of K2, alcohol and cannabis.

The previous day the station's telephone operator received two calls from two separate parents. Their sons were off their heads on K2. One was a 12-year-old boy.

These are some of the stories told by Southland police officers dealing with youngsters in the community who are affected by a legal substance that is "terrorising the community and tearing lives apart".

Senior Sergeant Bruce Terry, of Invercargill, said he had never seen anything like it in 28 years of being a police officer.

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While it has been highlighted that family members of the K2 users, and the users themselves, are being put in danger, what is not so well known is the police are also being put at risk by the unpredictable and aggressive behaviour of K2 users.

Invercargill area tactical response manager Inspector Olaf Jensen said he was concerned for the safety of police officers.

Assaults on police officers had increased when K2 was involved.

Terry confirmed there had been several assaults on police officers by people high on K2 coming through the cells when the officers were working.

Offenders taking the legal highs were often totally out of control and their behaviour was erratic, with some banging their heads against cell walls, he said.

The impacts of K2 were not only being felt in urban areas.

In Western Southland, sub-area commander Senior Sergeant Cynthia Fairley tells a similar story, saying there had been an increase in the number of families wanting police to help them deal with teenagers hooked on K2.

There had also been cases of young males becoming aggressive and violent towards police in the area, she said.

"K2 affects their ability to control themselves and their feelings. I have been at an incident where the young male was smashing up his bedroom, he was aggressive and abusive with police."

People high on K2 were often extremely paranoid of the police and were not afraid to take on the uniform, she said.

The unpredictability of their actions made matters volatile for police. It was difficult to reason with people who are upset, aggressive and paranoid, she said. Often the violent behaviour was in front of family members who needed police to come in and bear the brunt of the aggression

The concerns of southern police come ahead of associate Health Minister Peter Dunne's announcement K2 would be off shelves by May 9 after tests revealed it contained two "dangerous" substances.

These substances are now among 35 banned in legal highs. Any product with these two substances would be pulled off shelves.

Dunne said the Psychoactive Substances Bill, going through Parliament and to be passed in August, would put the onus on manufacturers, requiring new products to be tested in a similar way to new medicines, which could cost about $2 million for each one.

The ban on K2 has been welcomed by police but there are fears manufacturers of the synthetic cannabis products would just find a new formula.

Jensen said he was no chemist but it would be quite easy for those making the legal highs to simply find a new chemical to use.

"Sometimes we do hit bit of brick wall because at the moment there is not a lot we can do."

Fairley said communities would have to put pressure on the people who sell and supply substances such as K2.

It was readily available and cheaper than cannabis, she said.

"Kids use it because they think that, because it is legal, it is safe. It certainly is not. It is a terror in the community and is tearing peoples lives apart."

The Southland Times