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Bay set to spearhead date rape drug war

10.10.2003 - BOP Times


Tauranga will lead the nation in a new offensive against date-rape drugs with city bars about to sell self-test kits showing people if their drink has been spiked.

The testing kits are expected to come on to the local market this summer and will be a key weapon against drink-spiking as a new regional police and community-wide taskforce prepares to wipe out the crime.

The taskforce _ comprising police, the Tauranga Safer Communities Trust and pubs _ has been set up in response to growing fears over rampant drink spiking in pubs across the Bay of Plenty and Waikato.

It plans to use a number of measures, including advertising and self-test kits, as police warn that anyone who goes out drinking is potentially at risk.

The kits work by placing a few drops of the suspect drink on a card, which changes colour if the drink has been spiked.

Tauranga Safer Communities is in talks with the importers and it has been estimated they could be sold across the bar for about $4.

The Australian-distributed kits _ which are about the size of a credit card _ have been heralded as a breakthrough in the war against the common date-rape drugs GHB and ketamine.

In Australia, the Daily Telegraph newspaper reported that in the six months since the introduction of the test kit, distributed to University of Woollongong students and in local bars, no students had reported being drugged.

In stark contrast, 18 spikings were reported the first three months prior to the the kits being available _ with nine confirmed by medical testing.

Tauranga police believe that locally many spiking cases go unreported, with victims too embarrassed or scared to make a complaint.

Detectives believe the problem is widespread throughout the country and say they have strong evidence to link several reported drink tampering cases in Tauranga, Rotorua and Hamilton.

As part of the Tauranga awareness campaign, local bars will also be issued with special coasters carrying a message warning of the risks of drink spiking. Bar and security staff will be encouraged to place the cardboard mats over any drink found unattended as a reminder of how easy it was to tamper with beverages.

Already this year several women in Tauranga have complained of being targeted in city bars and detectives say the victims ended up in situations where they could have been attacked.

Detective Sergeant Eddie Lyttle, of Tauranga CIB , said one effect of being drugged was that a victim was conscious and aware of what they were doing but had no inhibitions.

``They know what's happening but they have no ability to stop it. It puts them in a position where are compliant and will go along with suggestions.''

Another drug known to have been used has the ability to ``wipe the memory'' and people who are drugged will have no recall of what has happened, said the detective.

People who suspected their drinks were spiked needed to get to a hospital immediately. The drug's effects wear off quickly and the chances of it being detected after four hours is slim _ but they should still report it to police.




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