Arrests for cocaine possession are exploding in Sydney

Photo: Chris McGrath/ Getty.

Sydneysiders are getting busted for cocaine possession in unprecedented numbers, with more than 3000 offences recorded last year, mainly in the city and the affluent eastern suburbs.

The 3,114 cocaine possession offences recorded over the 12 months to March was a 46% increase on the previous year’s 2,134, making it by far the fastest-rising type of crime recorded in Australia’s largest state.

Data from local government areas reviewed by Business Insider confirms the increase is concentrated in Sydney’s eastern suburbs and the central business district — much of it in the federal electorate of prime minister Malcolm Turnbull and featuring some Australia’s highest incomes and most expensive real estate.

The data shows:

  • The Randwick council area which covers the Clovelly, Coogee and Maroubra beachside suburbs saw an increase of over 130% over the past two years in cocaine possession offences;
  • The Waverley council area, which takes in Bondi, Bronte, and Dover Heights saw an increase of 100% in recorded offences for cocaine use;
  • Central Sydney saw an increase of 38% in recorded offences, but it was coming off a higher base level, with 2017 seeing 930 incidents over the previous year’s 674; and
  • North Sydney is coming off a lower base, but showing a similar surge, with an 89% increase on a two-year trend basis and 83 offences recorded last year.

The rise in cocaine possession busts comes alongside an increase in cocaine dealing offences from 484 to 752 across the state in the 12 months to March.

It’s an indication of both increased police attention and more widespread use in the community.

While the 3,100 incidents of cocaine use and possession in the 12 months to March represented a huge increase, it was still dwarfed by the 25,635 comparable incidents for cannabis possession. The rate of cannabis offences, however, is not growing.

Incidents involving amphetamines were down, the NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics data showed.

NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research

The prevalence of offences is perhaps best illustrated by comparing incidents per 100,000 of population.

Cocaine use and possession in the Campbelltown area of western Sydney showed an incidence of 7 people for every every 100,000 of the population. This blows out to 245 in every 100,000 in Woollahra and 414 in the Sydney city district.

For comparison these are still far behind the cannabis possession offences recorded in the Byron council area in northern NSW, which had an offence rate of 1,888 per 100,000 of the population in 2017. Amazingly, this was down from its 2013 level of 2,890.

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