Clutha-Taieri area response manager Senior Sergeant Stan Leishman says it “guts” him when he sees children who are not being looked after properly.
“The impact on the families of users manifests itself as both the physical and emotional abuse of partners and children,” Sen Sgt Leishman said.
“For children raised in environments of substance abuse they see violence as normal when they see dads or mums, or both, spinning out and losing the plot.
“Meth is highly addictive, and users have explosive mood swings. They are irritable. They are up sometimes for days on end, not sleeping and on the go all the time.
“Then it’s the spontaneous assaults. People just snap because of their habit. Their money is being spent on the drugs and not on food and other necessities, so kids are the ones that suffer.”
Police say nationally the price of meth has dropped from $1000 per gram to about $250 per gram wholesale, flooding the market.
Sen Sgt Leishman said police did not know what they would encounter when they stopped a vehicle and found someone affected by meth, adding stress to officers on duty.
“It affects the police here as we are dealing with people who are unpredictable, violent, and yet these are people who may previously have been good people but now they have got into meth.”
Sen Sgt Leishman said police had a plan for combating methamphetamine in South Otago.
“We are going to do ‘prevention by intervention’. If we know someone is using meth, they can expect a knock on their door.
“The plan is to give them the option of a referral to drug counselling, rehab or detox with the objective being to help people change their lives.
“South Otago has a lot going for it. Our aim is to get people into meaningful lives.”
Clutha Mayor Bryan Cadogan said he was proud of the work undertaken by the Clutha Youth Council and various support agencies to help lift awareness of meth in the district.
“It is devastating to watch the crumbling of the souls of people using meth. ” he said.
“It is working its way through our community by stealth and we must raise awareness of the harm it does.
“Because of the good work done so far, the perception is that the district has more of a drug problem than it actually has.
“But all we have done is elevated the awareness of the problem. Now we are seeing structure in the response by family support agencies to helping those directly affected by drugs.”
Mr Cadogan told the Otago Daily Times in August that like many areas, Clutha had been caught off guard by the emergence of the drug in recent years.
He estimated there were 100 or more users of the drug in the area.
“Gangs created a void three years ago by putting small-time cannabis dealers out of business, and had since filled the void with methamphetamine.
“The speed that this has come through our community .. definitely the majority of the community is still blissfully unaware of what’s happening right under their noses.”
During Operation Wick which resulted in arrests in August, Sen Sgt Leishman said methamphetamine was causing “social carnage” and he appealed to the public to assist in reducing the drug’s impact on communities.