Drug work sees AOS callouts rise

By Amy McGillivray

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Armed offenders squad callouts in the Western Bay are on the rise but police say it is because of a tougher stance on drugs.

The squad and police negotiators were called out 43 times in the 2008/09 financial year, 51 times in 2010/11 and 59 times in 2011/12.

There was a spike of 75 callouts in 2009/10.

In the six months to last month the squad had been deployed 35 times.

The Western Bay of Plenty police tactical response manager, Inspector Karl Wright-St Clair, said the type of jobs being attended by the squad had changed in the past few years.

"It's more drug work, basically," he said.

"Callouts have probably shifted away from the bulk of them being emergency response jobs to more planned jobs, which often relate to drug activity and organised crime.

"We still do attend a number of domestic incidents where firearms are involved and there's usually alcohol and/or drugs involved there as well."

While the first six months of the 2012/13 financial year pointed towards the squad attending about 70 jobs during the year, Mr Wright-St Clair was not concerned.

"The last job we had was before Christmas. We haven't had a job for six weeks. With the AOS we often get a number of jobs all at once, then nothing," he said.

"The numbers include all incidents the AOS have attended and we attend a variety of incidents based on risk. We execute all warrants on meth labs it doesn't matter if there are firearms involved or not."

Mr Wright-St Clair said P labs were classed as high-risk situations for which the squad had the specialist safety equipment needed.

Police negotiators went on most armed offenders callouts as well as some the squad was not called to, he said.

"A lot of those relate to people threatening suicide where it's not a high risk [to others]."

Safety was the main aim of the squad, Mr Wright-St Clair said.

"Obviously we'd always like to have less callouts but it's about managing risk for our staff and the public so we will always turn out where there's a risk to the public or police."

He said there was no obvious reason for the spike in the number of callouts in the 2009/10 financial year.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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