The number of people subjected to sniffer dog searches by NSW police has fallen to a five-year low, new figures reveal, but the proportion where no drugs are found remains stubbornly high.
Last year the number of searches conducted after police dogs indicated the presence of drugs fell to 12,893 – the lowest annual figure since 2010 when 14,836 were carried out. Drugs were found in only 4019 cases, meaning that none were discovered in 68 per cent of the searches. However, this is an improvement on 2014 where no drugs were found in more than 73 per cent of 14,541 searches conducted.
The figures, obtained by the NSW Greens under access to government information laws, also reveal that last year 3275 sniffer dog searches were conducted by the police public transport command, but no drugs were found in 73 per cent of cases. The NSW Greens are attributing the drop in search figures to the success of the party’s “Sniff Off” campaign, which highlights the high percentage of what the party calls “false positives” – where dogs indicate the presence of drugs yet none are found.
The Sniff Off campaign also encourages people to use social media to report where police drug dog operations are taking place. Its Facebook page is liked by more than 22,000 people.
However, a NSW Police spokesman said drug detection dogs are “one of many effective resources NSW Police use to target the use and supply of deadly illegal drugs”.
The data obtained by the Greens does not indicate the types of drugs being detected by police sniffer dogs. They show Redfern police local area command continues to have one of the poorest ratios of searches to drugs found.
In 2015 it ranked sixth out of 76 local area commands for the number of searches, with 533. Yet with 422 of those finding no drugs, it ranked 67th on this measure. Mr Shoebridge said this shows Redfern “isn’t awash in drugs, but we do know it has a large population of young people and a vibrant Aboriginal community”. The police spokesman did not respond directly on this point.