Sniffer dogs run riot at Sleaze and Parklife

Sniffer dogs have long been a contentious part of Sydney’s music festival landscape but police action at the Sleaze Ball and Parklife events held in Moore Park over the weekend suggest the authorities are clamping down on drug users harder than ever before.

For the first time in Sleaze Ball’s 27- year history, police dogs were taken through the entire venue and onto the dance floor several times, rather than just screening patrons as they entered.

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Drug-dog operations were also ramped up at Parklife, continuing for the entire duration of the festival rather than just the first few hours, as in previous years.

New Mardi Gras CEO Anna McInerney acknowledged the concern about increased police action at Sleaze Ball. “Overwhelmingly the most commonly expressed feedback on the party has been that the police presence was heavy-handed,” she said. “There is clearly a lot of concern about this and we’ll be seeking feedback from the community and investigating the details and rationale of the police operation before formulating a formal response.”

The commander of Operation Rolling Thunder IV, Superintendent Donna Adney, said she was “concerned about the number of people who continue to attend these events in possession of prohibited drugs and - or with the intention to - supply drugs to festival patrons”.

Of the 40 drug detections at Parklife, three people were charged with supply and 33 were charged with possession.

This breakdown is consistent with the 2007 NSW Ombudsman report on sniffer dogs which stated most drug detections were small amounts for personal use and that the dogs were failing to catch dealers.

Supt Adney said police would continue to target these events to “drive down possession and supply of prohibited drugs,” but patrons of both events said the increased presence of dogs had no perceivable impact on the proliferation of drugs, one estimating that “90 per cent of the crowd walked in with something”.

A spokeswoman for Fuzzy, the organisers of Parklife, questioned the suggestion that drug dealing was a problem at the event.

“There were 35,000 tickets sold and only three people charged with supply. You could go to a nightclub in the City that holds 500 people and get that many,” the spokeswoman said. “I think what they try to do is just get across that they’re doing everything in their power.”

One partygoer commenting in an online forum criticised the allocation of police resources. “Why target dance parties only? Go to the Logies and all those red carpet-type events as well,” he said.

“Police could be used to fight real crime instead of pissant small charges like this.”

Other commentators suggested more dangerous drugs like GHB were on the rise at festivals because partygoers believed they were harder to detect.

“Maybe they want us to be blind drunk and punching on like pub- goers or all tripping on unknown undetectable substances that can get past the dogs,” another commenter suggested.

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