New data released today suggests NSW taxpayers are forking out hundreds of thousands of dollars for sniffer dogs at music festivals, despite little evidence they are effective.
According to information compiled by the NSW Greens and reported by The Guardian, the cost of just three drug detection dogs at a music festival is a steep $6,006 per hour — or $36,036 for six hours. When extrapolated to 20 events a year, that figure turns into $720,720.
Figures provided to Greens Justice spokesman David Shoebridge state that 9,380 people were searched as part of drug detection operations in the last year — but of those, only 1.7 percent were charged with drug dealing offences. Further information given to the NSW parliament shows that police spend nearly $9.5 million a year to maintain a drug detection squad.
For most music events, police decide whether they require drug detection squads and additional officers on the ground — and this cost is built into the overall ticket price.
“Every time you see a dog at a festival that’s $2,000 per hour…for a dog who will 60 to 80 percent of the time sniff out someone who is not carrying any drugs,” Shoebridge told The Guardian. “$36,000 per festival to encourage people to take all their drugs at once, in advance, use drugs thought to be less detectable or just buy drugs inside the venue.”
But NSW Police Minister Troy Grant — who has long been a fierce opponent to harm reduction services such as pill testing — rejected the claims made by the Greens, saying the dogs have a “strong deterrence factor” and he “makes no apology for using drug detection dogs to send a message to the community that we do not condone illicit drug use or trafficking”.
This data comes less than a week after Canberra’s Spilt Milk festival abandoned plans to host a pill testing service at their event in November, citing a dispute over incomplete documentation.