The Facts - Enforcement Costs

Australian Drug Law Enforcement - the cost

There were 93,148 arrests for prohibited drugs in Australia in 2011-12, taking $389million out of the police budget.

 Most of Australian drug arrests were for cannabis around 61,011, or 65% of drug arrests. Around 80% of those were for possession.

Australian Drug Law Enforcement - the cost

  • There were 93,148 arrests for prohibited drugs in Australia in 2011-12, taking $389million out of the police budget.

  • Most of Australian drug arrests were for cannabis around 61,011, or 65% of drug arrests. Around 80% of those were for possession.

  • In 2010, 10,651 of the 17,757 reported sexual assaults were not finalised after 30 days.  There are a great number of crimes with victims in Australia that are not solved due to a lack of resources.

  • Illicit drug offences made up 20% of higher court matters (courts above Magistrates court), the cost being $56million. Around 6% of matters in the Magistrates Courts are illicit drug offences, but when you remove traffic offences this doubles to around 12%, costing $22million. All Australian jurisdictions employ prosecutors to work with police to bring drug cases to court, costing $41million, and for government funded Legal Aid defence lawyers to defend those cases, $34million.

  • Around 3,600 prisoners are doing time for drug crime - 12% of prisoners.This costs us $220million, with an additional $20million for community corrections.

  • The Australian Customs and Border Protection Service’s drug search activity costs  $157 million. Police and customs are aided by $20million research funding into drug law enforcement, such as from the Australian Crime Commission.

  • The total cost of drug law enforcement is around $1.1billion, not counting drug related crime which is unquantifiable.

  • As a rough rule, for every $1 spent on enforcement, there is a transfer of value into the black market of $10.


References

Illicit Drug Data Report (ACC) 2011-12

Drug Policy Modelling Program 2013  (All costs data)

Crime and Justice :  1301.0 - Year Book Australia, 2012

4512.0 - Corrective Services, Australia, March Quarter 2013  - ABS and the Prisoner Census

Estimating the size and value of Australia’s market for illegal drugs and its potential for taxation under a regulated market (2013) Dr John Jiggens


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  • commented 2016-09-09 12:07:18 +1000
    Do you know the breakup between what is spent on possession and what is spent on salesable amounts ?
    Also I don’t understand the last relative equation, of enforcement expenditure into black market value ?

    This is such a great piece on making all taxpayers understand the weight of our countries “War on Drugs”.

    Personally I do not believe such unconsolable punishment is sustainable, I believe that prisons regularly teach prisons how to stay on the “wrong side” of law enforcement, instead of getting them ready to fit back into our society. Although the idea that we rely so much on punishment really speaks to the idea that our government still views drug use as a criminal, punishable offence. When it has social impacts, and it is society we attempt to conform how is it not a social issue?

    I am very with you in terms of how I believe this revenue should be redirected, believing that harm reduction is the way forward. And that the Australian community could become a more unified nation to support people with addiction problems, and provided an open source for knowledge if we demystified usage, and the narratives around peoples habits.

    #DitchtheDogs $1.1 billion is such a shocking figure, especially when compared relatively to the amount of resources needed to aid in closure of cases and counselling for assault victims. It shows a lot in concern to our priorities as a nation…. another figure that would be interesting to compare is how much we spend on helping victims of domestic violence compared to cannabis drug possession.
  • commented 2014-10-08 18:21:13 +1100
    Isn’t it just crazy how much money the police is costing our nation for these arrests instead of actually fixing the problem from its roots. $389 million in just one year is just insane and it needs to stop. This blog post gave me such insight into how much money is actually going into Australian Drug Law Enforcement. I was gobsmacked to learn that the total cost of drug law enforcement is approximately $1.1 billion. We clearly need to make a change to a more effective and humane approach to reducing the harm of drugs in our country. This happens with drug law reform so keep up the good work! We support you 100%.