Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Drugs Czar report highlights School alert

Gibraltar’s drugs czar John Montegriffo has defended the need for a multi-disciplinary approach to the drugs problem through the development of partnerships between police and other bodies like the education and social services departments.

Writing his first progress report on the Government’s Drugs Strategy, Mr Montegriffo encourages “informed lifestyle decisions” and states that it has to be acknowledged that drug markets “do sometimes find their way into some schools.”

He says schools are a microcosm of society reflecting social trends for better or for worse, and argues that the aim of his office is to create a coherent standardised and consistent response across all educational establishments “resulting in a safer environment for all children and young persons in our schools.”

Mr Montegriffo argues that traditional drug awareness campaigns in Gibraltar focused on the “say no to drugs” message and delivery by law enforcement agencies, but that both were being reviewed. He says:

“In terms of drugs today’s youth are subject to an onslaught on the part of the media that has made drugs more acceptable, even to the point of glamorising in some cases.”

Mr Montegriffo believes that public awareness and information on the harm and risks that drugs pose should be conveyed to the youth in an appealing and non-patronising or moralising way, so that they are “made to feel stakeholders in the Government Drug Strategy being a success.”

A new youth awareness magazine, web site and media campaign that incorporates this message and sticks to the facts and risks of drugs will be launched in the course of the year.

Mr Montegriffo notes that there are sectors of local society that advocate “a purely law enforcement perspective” and while he supports the relentless targeting of drug traffickers by police, reckons that such a narrow view fails to take in the many variables of the effects of drugs in the fabric of society.

“No country has yet claimed victory over the war on drugs by adopting this approach alone,” said Mr Montegriffo.

He said health issues, education and factors that increase the risk of people resorting to drugs have to be tackled, “to make our society safer in the long term.”

Drug Enforcement

As regards drug enforcement, Mr Montegriffo said his remit has been to look at legislative measures that will enhance the law enforcement agencies’ ability to effectively address any of the facets of drug misuse, the seizure of the proceeds of drug trafficking, and looking at ways to disrupt the activities of traffickers by creating the appropriate legislative framework.

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