Australia’s changing drug and alcohol habits

Three charts on: Australia’s changing drug and alcohol habits

Nicole Lee, Curtin University

Australians are using less alcohol, tobacco and other drugs than they did a decade ago, new results from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare’s (AIHW) National Drug Strategy Household Survey show.

Although the drug of most concern to the general public is methamphetamine, the rate of methamphetamine use has been showing a steady decline since 1998 and, at 1.4%, is now at its lowest point since the survey began, down from 2.1% three years ago.

So why are people worried? The data over the past several years has shown a decrease in people who prefer to use the lower purity methamphetamine speed and an increase in people preferring to use the more potent crystal form, “ice”.

This trend continues in this survey. The drop in the proportion of people who use methamphetamine overall appears to be driven by fewer people using speed.

With an increase in crystal methamphetamine as the preferred form has come significant increases in harms.

Recent treatment data show an increase in treatment presentations – methamphetamine now represents close to 25% of drug treatment episodes – and there has been increases in ambulance call outs, hospital separations and deaths due to methamphetamine.

The trends in methamphetamine use and harms highlight why policies should focus on harms and harm reduction rather than use and use reduction.

In fact, illicit drug use more generally has decreased, mainly driven by a reduction among teenagers, suggesting that fewer young people are trying illicit drugs. This is also continuing a trend seen over the past decade.

Age of first drug use is on the rise

Not only are fewer people using illicit drugs, those who do are trying them later. Specifically methamphetamine, cannabis and hallucinogens showed an increase in the age of first use:

People aged 35-55 years have increased their use of illicit drugs significantly, driven primarily by increases in use of cannabis, methamphetamine and cocaine. We don’t know whether these are people new to using illicit drugs or people who have a history of use who have moved into an older age group.

Traditionally harm reduction messages have been primarily targeted at young people, but an important growing group of people at risk of harms is now those in middle age.

The proportion of people using illicit drugs in their 60s has also been increasing over time. Although the increase is relatively small from 2013 to 2016, people in their 60s have had the largest increase since 2001. This is mostly accounted for by use of pharmaceuticals for non-medical purposes. Careful monitoring of pharmaceutical prescriptions and over-the-counter medicines are part of a harm reduction solution.

More people report being non-drinkers

Despite a lot of media interest in illicit drugs, it is still the legal drugs, alcohol and tobacco that cause most harm in the community.

The good news is that there was a decline in drinking that increases risk of harm over a lifetime (such as chronic health problems). For healthy men and women, drinking no more than two standard drinks on any day reduces the lifetime risk of harm from alcohol.

There was no overall change in drinking that increases risk on a single drinking occasion (such as injuries), but younger people under 30 years old showed a significant decline in risky drinking. For healthy men and women, drinking no more than four standard drinks on a single occasion reduces the immediate risk of alcohol-related harm. Alcohol-related incidents also decreased, and the proportion of people who reported never having a full glass of alcohol grew.

Nearly 94% of 12-15 year olds and 58% of 16-17 year olds did not drink at all, both increases from the previous survey.

There was an increase in the proportion of the population who have never smoked and who are ex-smokers, with a significant increase in teenagers who do not smoke.

Overall, legal and illegal drugs are showing a stable or downward trend in proportion of population who use them over the last decade or more. However, while fewer young people are using, the proportion of people using alcohol and other drugs in the older age groups has increased.

The ConversationCORRECTION: This article was corrected on June 1 to change “a significant decrease in teenagers who do not smoke” to “a significant increase in teenagers who do not smoke.” The Conversation apologies for the error and thanks readers who picked it up.

Nicole Lee, Professor at the National Drug Research Institute, Curtin University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

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We need to be cautious when assuming CCTV will prevent family violence

We need to be cautious when assuming CCTV will prevent family violence


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A reliance on security infrastructure to resolve embedded social problems may be misguided.


Caitlin Overington, University of Melbourne

This year’s Victorian state budget included a A$1.9 billion package to tackle family violence. Part of this was a statewide Personal Safety Initiative, which expands a trial of installing technology – such as CCTV, personal alarms and security doors – in the homes of at-risk women.

The Victorian government is to be commended for recognising that support for victims should be increased. However, a reliance on security infrastructure to resolve embedded social problems may be misguided.

In May, Sydney man Max Spencer was arrested and charged with breaching an apprehended violence order following the death of his girlfriend, Hayley Mcclenahan-Ernst. The circumstances of her death are still being treated as suspicious.

Spencer pleaded not guilty to breaching the order. CCTV footage later emerged, and has been widely circulated, of the couple kissing and holding hands in the hours before her death.

Such footage will likely become significant if Spencer maintains his not-guilty plea to any charges. Without speculating further on this case, key issues regarding the use of CCTV in responses to family violence must be reconsidered.

How CCTV and other cameras may be used

A recent report estimated more than 160,000 people experienced family violence in Victoria in 2015-16. This cost the state A$5.3 billion in 2015-16. $2.6 billion of this stemmed from individuals’ pain, suffering, physical and psychological health impacts, and loss of income.

In this context, the $17 million announced for the installation of technology like CCTV seems relatively minor.

Following a “successful” pilot program, CCTV installed in victims’ homes was commended for reducing intervention order breaches, and for working as evidence in court to demonstrate when breaches did occur.

Participants in the trial also said they felt safer in their home with CCTV. This is significant, particularly as family violence is a key driver of homelessness. The UK has implemented similar measures.

Visual evidence has a lot of currency in criminal and civil proceedings. Victoria Police is trialling body-worn cameras when attending family violence incidents for this reason. CCTV may also be useful in courtroom settings to reduce the need for a victim to encounter their offender.

While technology may be used well in these instances, the expansion of such programs necessitates a closer consideration of risks.

Importance of introducing safeguards

While short-term disruption can occur, CCTV’s long-term effectiveness in deterring criminal behaviour is still inconclusive and disputed internationally.

Because CCTV does not tackle the underlying causes of violence, displacement of crime also often follows. In the context of family violence, this means that while a victim may be temporarily safe in her home, leaving for work – for example – may become riskier. This might mean new forms of isolation.

How CCTV is positioned around the property is also significant. If it is only facing outside, then a camera can misinterpret the conditions in which someone enters the home.

Family violence can be coercive in more ways than sexual and physical aggression. Economic and psychological violence is prevalent, and these behaviours will not be visible to a camera. CCTV may not be able to capture subtle forms of manipulation, or, say, threats to self-harm.

Family violence is also complex and traumatic for victims. Feelings of shame or a belief that it “might get better” can also come into the mix.

If footage emerges of a victim talking to, engaging with or inviting in a perpetrator, this may be used against a victim to shift blame and perpetuate myths. CCTV footage used as evidence must be properly safeguarded to prevent this.

The idea of cameras placed inside the home also has extreme implications for proportionality and privacy.

Finally, CCTV cameras used in the Victorian trial were connected to static internet addresses. Victims were not provided direct access – instead, they were given an application on their phone to check the cameras before going outside or coming home.

But, for a security device, CCTV cameras are notorious for their poor security. Many thousands have been hacked in one go. Before installing any sort of surveillance device into the homes of thousands of vulnerable families, strict cyber-security measures need to be adhered to and properly evaluated.

Where we should focus our attention

Like an apprehended violence order, the installation of CCTV cameras in the most extreme cases of family violence may be beneficial in temporarily disrupting threat of physical abuse. However, it is not likely to have meaningful long-term effects. Nor will it work at a statewide level.

Instead, the Victorian government should be encouraged to continue leading its investment in the integration of social and health services, and to focus on shifting attitudes as a better prevention strategy.

To best support this, media outlets have an ethical duty in focusing on these policies, and must therefore consider the implications of needlessly circulating CCTV images. Future court proceedings and future public engagement with the causes – and best preventions – of family violence depend on this.

The ConversationThe National Sexual Assault, Family & Domestic Violence Counselling Line – 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732) – is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week for any Australian who has experienced, or is at risk of, family and domestic violence and/or sexual assault.

Caitlin Overington, PhD Candidate in Criminology, University of Melbourne

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

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Hackers stole millions of voice recordings of kids and parents from toys

Collapsing “connected toy” company did nothing while hackers stole millions of voice recordings of kids and parents

Spiral Toys — a division of Mready, a Romanian electronics company that lost more than 99% of its market-cap in 2015 — makes a line of toys called “Cloudpets,” that use an app to allow parents and children to exchange voice-messages with one another. They exposed a database of millions of these messages, along with sensitive private information about children and parents, for years, without even the most basic password protections — and as the company imploded, they ignored both security researchers and blackmailers who repeatedly contacted them to let them know that all this data was being stolen.

Even as the millions of records were stolen and shared online, the company was fielding its last-ditch, hail-mary product: an Internet of Things piggybank (it flopped).

Breach researcher Troy Hunt (proprietor of the essential Have I Been Pwned service), discovered all this by poring through the leaked data that his sources came to him with, finding ransom notices from multiple, independent criminal gangs who had stolen the company’s user-records and were seeking hush money not to release them.

This is the latest in a series of high-profile breaches and security revelations about “connected toys”: most recently, the German government advised people to destroy Cayla, an internet-connected doll that could be converted into a covert listening device; in 2015, the Hong Kong kids’ crapgadget empire of Vtech was shaken by the revelation that the company had lost 6.3 million customers’ data, then lied about it, then changed its EULA to make you agree not to sue them over it, then tried to pivot into the home security market (!); then the Hello Kitty website was revealed to have leaked 3.3 million kids’ data; then we learned that Hello Barbie sent recordings of your children to a notorious military contractor.

As I’ve argued before: there is no IoT business model. Hardware starts at a 2% margin and falls from there. IoT companies get capital by promising to monopolize an “ecosystem” — controlling app stores, service, parts, and consumables, and by collecting as much data as possible in case they might get an exit by selling the company to someone who wants access to it. These firms have no incentive to invest in any but the most cursory security measures (because by the time a breach occurs, they will either be a division of a larger company or out of business), and anything they spend it money they can’t use to keep the doors open while they look for an exit or a profit.

The best way to monopolize ecosystems is by using DRM. Laws like Section 1201 of the DMCA make it a felony to break DRM, even for a legal purpose. By designing a product so that using someone else’s apps, or parts, or consumables, requires breaking DRM, you can turn these otherwise normal, legal, competitive activities into felonies.

And because courts have interpreted DMCA 1201 as a ban on reporting security vulnerabilities (because telling someone about a defect in DRM helps them figure out how to defeat it), the devices that are designed to be as insecure as feasible, as spying as possible, and to treat their owners as their enemies are no-go zones for prudent security researchers.

Spiral Toys is the beginning, not the end.

Like the earlier image, these are yet more indicators of compromise (IOC) consistent with the ransom demands that were going around for MongoDBs in early Jan. Niall called them out later that month as part of his commentary on how the whole saga was unfolding:

There were many malicious parties taking action against exposed databases during this period and we frequently saw the same system accessed multiple times by different actors, each demanding their own ransom. It wasn’t until Jan 13 that Shodan reported no publicly accessible databases remained on CloudPets’ IP Address. The CloudPets data was accessed many times by unauthorised parties before being deleted and then on multiple occasions, held for ransom.

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Inside The Mind of A Detective: What Skills Do You Need?

Inside The Mind of A Detective: What Skills Do You Need?


Image: iStock

Have you ever dreamed of becoming a detective? Do stories about Sherlock Holmes, Hercule Poirot and maybe even Ice-T from Law & Order SVU make you wonder if you have what it takes?

We spoke to two former detectives to find out what skills a detective needs. Duncan McNab is a former detective and private investigator turned journalist and true crime author. His latest book Roger Rogerson was released in late 2016.

Belinda Neil is a former police detective, homicide investigator and hostage negotiator. She is also the author of the best-selling memoir, Under Siege and an inspirational speaker.



Image: iStock

‘Hard’ is an understatement when it comes to being a detective. You have to be dedicated and truly want to do the job.

“I’m appalling nosey and inquisitive,” laughs Duncan McNab. “I like to find out everything I can. I’m always intrigued by things I want to know. To be a detective, whether it’s in the police force or private practice, you really have to want to find things out. You get up in the morning and the first thing you think about is where the day’s adventure is going to take you.”

He continues, “Really good detectives are utterly passionate about it. They give a damn and don’t give up. They’ll fight.”

“You talk to coppers who retired 10 or 15 years ago and they still carry with them that passion to see justice on a case they have ever been able to fully resolve.”

Gut Instinct


Image: iStock

Some call it gut instinct or a sixth sense. Others, simply the ability to read a scene. No matter what name you give it, it’s imperative to detective work.

McNab explains, “Good coppers who know their business and have the right skills and experience gain instinct. They can look at a crime and think [that] the likelihood of X being responsible is pretty good.

“What you don’t do is then try and build your evidence to support what you think. Let the evidence take you there.”

Neil agrees with this. “Gut instinct is very important but you can’t ever completely rely on it. It’s another [arrow] in our quiver, so to speak.”

“You might have a gut instinct about a particular person…but again it’s always imperative to review evidence and facts.”

McNab also details how even the most seasoned professionals can sometimes get it wrong. “Older, more experienced investigators can walk into a room and just smell if things are going to get interesting. You walk in and you know if there’s a problem.”

“On other occasions you might be meeting with someone you’re terribly apprehensive about, they might be a serious crim, and you walk out thinking, ‘That was quite pleasant actually. Nice fella! Sure he’s a terrible crook, but he’s not all that bad!’”

“I met a contract assassin once who was very pleasant, but at the same time you realise he would happily kill you if the money was right.”

Reading People


Image: iStock

Similar to gut instincts, the ability to read a person’s body language is incredibly beneficial to investigators. It can help them identify suspects and draw conclusions about their cases.

But it isn’t reliable.

Someone acting suspiciously does’t necessarily mean they’re guilty.

“They may be stressed or uncomfortable , or even drug effected,” says Neil. “Sometimes a very good liar won’t give themselves away with these things.”

“That’s why it’s imperative to read the whole body language but also look at all the other evidence. These are indicators, not answers. You use them to build your suspicions and explore some more.”

McNab agrees. “Some people are remarkably fantastic liars. One thing you do learn after being around for awhile — it’s almost never that someone will tell you the whole detailed, absolutely factual truth. They always hold something back. Sometimes because they don’t think you need to know, sometimes they’re concerned about the impact on other people.”

“Take your impressions away from an interview, by all means, it’s what you have to do. But then go and do your own investigation and substantiate it.”

Neil also stresses how important self awareness is when it comes to reading a person, as it can effect how much they divulge.

“If I fold my arms, if I’m not looking at the person, or if I look at my watch the person isn’t going to think I’m interested in them. It’s not just about reading somebody else, it’s about being mindful of your own body language.”



Methodology is paramount to any investigation. You need to trawl through absolutely everything and not become impatient for answers — that’s when you might miss something important.

“Never ever forget to make sure your basics are absolutely rock solid, and then you build your investigation, says McNab.

“The chronology has to be right and the mechanics of what happened has to be substantiated…Be really cold about it and establish your facts.”

He continues, “It’s a hard methodical slog. You don’t dismiss things until you have a good reason to. It’s almost like accounting procedure sometimes. You have to be very precise, you don’t ignore things, you don’t assume things. Every incident needs to be investigated, wrapped up, dismissed or proceeded with.”



Image: Slide Share

Being objective and analytical is equally important in an investigation. You can have to approach it with an open mind and avoid getting tunnel vision.

“Be open to other people’s ideas. Be suspicious,” says Neil

“The need to remain objective is paramount to any investigation. Facts get you the result in court. Things need to proved in evidence. That’s the bottom line.”

Duncan elaborates on this point, highlighting the need to be self critical. You don’t just investigate the crime. You investigate your own approach to it.

“You have to be brutally objective of yourself,” he surmises. “Once you’ve got everything wrapped up and think it’s good, take a step back and an objective look to make sure you haven’t made the mistakes that other people do. It happens, we’re all human.

Communication Skills


Image: iStock

Investigations require talking to people. A lot of them. If you aren’t adept at flexible communication, you aren’t going to get very far.

“You have to be able to talk to kings and crooks, all levels of people,” says Neil. “Information can come from unlikely sources, you have to be able to maintain confidences.”

Heightened levels of communication were particularly necessary during her time as a hostage negotiator and undercover.

“It’s more intense in a hostage situation because it’s all about communication. If you’re talking to someone face to face, you have to be so mindful of not only trying to read the person but also of your own body language…You’re trying to read the situation while also remaining neutral because people can pick that up, even on the phone.”

She also highlights listening skills as an imperative. “It’s not about your ability to talk. You have to be able to show empathy, compassion and patience. That’s all in addition to your other skills as an investigator.”

Street Smarts


Like with any profession, training is a necessity. But there’s a lot about the job that can’t be learned from study.

“The formal training you get in a classroom tells you the laws, and gives you the legal framework you have to operate in. And that’s nailed into you,” McNab explains.

“As a copper and investigation leads to an arrest which leads to a court case and you need to make sure that everything is bolted down.”

“That formal training is essential, but then you build on it with experience, good mentoring and sometimes even being thrown into a situation where you have to work it out yourself and get it right.”

You learn on your feet, that’s where a lot of it comes from. You learn from everything that happens. Good investigators need to have that hands on experience working with people.”

“Both are important,” says Neil. “The experience you gain on the job is very important. But you need to know how to gather evidence properly too.”

When it comes to skills that need to be developed with experience, Neil suggests the following. “Street smarts. They’re important. The ability to think quickly, I don’t think you’ll learn that in a classroom. I’m really big on communication, that is so important, and being able to read people. That’s where you’re able to start gaining trust.”



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Florida pet detective tracks down missing animals

Florida pet detective tracks down missing animals

Jamie Katz is a registered private eye with a degree in criminology.

    • Charles Rabin, Miami Herald
    • Updated 

Animal lover Jamie Katz, 36, has taken her passion for four-footed friends into the professional realm.

Call her Private Investigator Katz. She’s a bona fide pet detective.

Recently, Katz has helped track down a French bulldog that escaped a yard and a chihuahua stolen from an animal clinic.

Another French bulldog went missing for 180 days — that’s 3 1/2 dog years — before Katz reunited him with owners earlier this year, a body-wagging reunion in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, that was caught on video.

“Jamie is sharp. Jamie is amazing,” said Emmanuel Laboy, who got his French bulldog Bella back after two agonizing weeks.

Katz is a registered private eye with a degree in criminology. She has trained her own dogs to catch the scent of missing pets. But arguably the key to her success is her skill at using new and old media to spotlight her mission.

Katz’s ability to reunite cats, dogs, parrots and even ferrets with their owners, coupled with a recent surge of positive press, has made her South Florida’s most well-known pet detective. Savvy at gaining attention, Katz isn’t shy about highlighting her name — a serendipitous homonym — to publicize her growing business.

Since creating her company less than two years ago, Katz said she’s taken on 240 cases and solved 150 of them. Most of the time, she reunites animals that have escaped homes. Stolen pets only account for about 10 percent of her business, she said.

Last year, Katz received an anonymous call and was soon helping Jasmine Jordan — the daughter of the Chicago Bulls Hall of Famer Michael Jordan — find Mila, her missing Pomeranian Yorkie.

The case of the stolen chihuahua

Earlier in May, Benny, a 4-year-old chihuahua owned by South Miami-Dade veterinarian Juan Fernandez Bravo, was retrieved. Two women and a man had snatched Benny inside the animal clinic as Bravo and others tended to 10 rescued animals. Shortly after Katz got a local television station to air the story, Bravo received a call saying his dog was safe. The dog was returned and Bravo paid a $1,500 reward.

Maria Bravo, the clinic office manager and wife of the veterinarian, said Benny was missing for eight days. She believes the signs made by Katz and her media savvy led to his return.

But Bravo was not entirely convinced the person who returned her chihuahua and gladly accepted the $1,500 reward had nothing to do with the dog’s abduction. Bravo said the man who somehow wound up with Benny was too frightened to return him to the animal clinic.

“He parked far away behind a mall,” she said. “Me and my husband met him and gave him a check.”

The case of Brunno the French bulldog, who escaped from his Fort Lauderdale home, dragged on for six months, more than enough time for many missing animal trails to grow cold. But tips after a blast of internet outreach, using community-focused social media sites like, led Katz to a home. From there, she surveilled the scene and eventually retrieved Brunno after an exchange of $5,000.

“I can find anybody,” said Katz. “I love the research part of it — and I don’t give up.”

Pet detective from an early age

Born in a small town named Sharon about 45 minutes outside of Boston, Katz finished high school in Baltimore. Her tracking interests started when her childhood pet cat Blackjack escaped.

Katz rode her bike all over town in search of that cat. Years later, she caught a television show called Animal Cops on the Animal Planet channel. From then on, lost pets and how to find them became an imperative.

“I never found Blackjack,” said Katz. “My goal in life was then to put animals and investigations together.”

After grade school, Katz and her dad moved to Baltimore, where she eventually earned a criminal justice degree from a community college. She said she spent the next decade working for pet rescue groups up and down the East Coast. During that time, Katz said began to focus on becoming a professional pet detective.

Getting a private investigators license in 2014 taught Katz how to do important background checks. For the next 18 months, she worked as an independent contractor searching for animals.

By September 2015, Katz was finally working on her own. She created P.I. Jamie Katz LLC. Last year, her work got some coverage on public radio. But in the last month, things have really taken off. In early May, a Washington Post story about her company spawned a slew of calls. A Broward New Times story two days later — detailing how she solved a fake kidnapping in which a dog was actually eaten by an alligator — raised her profile even higher.

During an hourlong interview recently, Katz’s cellphone filled with 10 new emails.

Hiring a P.I.

The cost of hiring Katz to find a pet: between $305 and $605, depending on exactly what needs to be done.

For the minimum, a customer gets bright yellow signs with a picture of the lost or stolen pet that includes a phone number and the amount of any reward. The signs are set up strategically through the neighborhood. Katz will spend two weeks following up on any tips.

Some of her signs, though, have caused problems. Some of Katz’s clients, particularly in Miami-Dade, have been fined in excess of $1,000. Zoning regulators say the signs are not permitted in public areas. They must be placed, with permission, on private property.

For $605, Katz will put her 3 1/2-year-old Britain Spaniel Gable and her 3-year-old terrier mix Fletcher to work.

Katz works out of her home, a small apartment just west of downtown Fort Lauderdale that is filled with dog cages and pictures of dogs and cats. The inside of the front door is appropriately scratched up. Her Facebook page is filled with reunion videos.

Call her cellphone and if she doesn’t answer, the recording is right out of the Jim Carrey comedy Pet Detective: “This is P.I. Jamie Katz. I’m on another line or on a case.”

In May, she brought finality to a convoluted search for Bella, Laboy’s French bulldog, which had escaped his Fort Lauderdale home through an open gate April 26. Laboy said not long after he posted a notice on his local Nextdoor site about Bella, a woman contacted him saying she saw the dog for sale on Craigslist.

After a series of back and forth phone calls, Laboy and Katz showed up at Bella’s new home and bought her back for $360 — the same price paid to acquire the dog. Katz’s fee for her service: A well-spent $405, Laboy said.

“Jamie guided me through the entire process,” he said. “It was all about, let’s get the dog back. It was well spent money and I don’t regret it one bit.”

This is an AP member-exchange story.

Article found here at Wisconsin Gazette

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