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Keywords:

  • public drug use;
  • community development;
  • community policing;
  • retail;
  • local government

Abstract

The use of alcohol and other drugs in public space is one that generates much heat in the public discourse and in the media. Too often the responses called for to reduce the problems of public amenity involve punitive policing and other responses that aim to engineer (mostly) young people out of these public spaces. Often local retailers are a key stakeholder group calling loudest for punitive action. In this Harm Reduction Digest Rogers and Anderson describe a community development approach taken to address these problems in Box Hill in the City of Whitehorse, near Melbourne. This approach which aimed to develop ‘bridging social capital’ between community retailers and other stakeholders in the area appears to have been effective in reducing harm associated with public drug use. Moreover these changes have become institutionalised and the approach has been expanded to address other public amenity problems in the area. It is a very nice example of how drug related harm can be reduced by grass roots networks of local councils, business people, law enforcement and health and welfare service providers to address these issues.