‘Peppermint Grove Drug Dealer jailed’ was the headline, inset on the front page of The West Australian, Saturday, 26 March. The main story, inside, filled most of page 3, leading with this lurid paragraph:
“A young Peppermint Grove woman has been jailed for six years for drug offences in a case that detailed her devastating descent from a life of privilege to a world of drugs and crime”
Judging by its placement, The West considered this big news.
Which is odd, as WA Police statistics show 833 drug trafficking offences over the six months from July to December 2010. That’s nearly 139 offences per month, or about 4.5 offences per day.
Do you recall seeing that many on the front page of The West last year?
So what made this particular drug conviction so newsworthy? Is it the words ‘Peppermint Grove’? Surely The West and its readers can’t be so naive as to believe this is the only person selling drugs in Perth’s affluent western suburbs?
Would The West have us believe this conviction is special because the perpetrator, an attractive, ex-private schoolgirl in her mid-20s, does not fit its comfortable image of a ‘typical’ drug dealer?
Drugs do not discriminate
If so, The West is having a bit of a lend of its readers. Drugs do not discriminate.
Over the years I’ve seen a number of close friends become involved with drugs and/or alcohol, and some of those have, sadly, developed damaging addictions to heroin or amphetamines.
Some of them turned to prostitution and/or petty crime to feed their habits. Some of them are now dead.
I’ve never conducted a formal survey but, in my personal and limited experience, a large percentage of those people came from wealthy families in the western suburbs, and attended private schools.
Their families know all too well drugs are not excluded from ‘exclusive’ suburbs. In fact, it’s ironic we refer to those suburbs as ‘the golden triangle’.
And let’s just take a look at that “devastating descent from a life of privilege to a world of drugs and crime” described by The West. Apparently the lady in question still lived in her parents’ home in View Street, and her stash was found in a Bulgari box.
That doesn’t sound like she ‘descended’ very far. In fact, it sounds very much as though her ‘life of privilege’ and the ‘world of drugs and crime’ were cohabiting quite comfortably in Peppy Grove.
What’s the real story?
So, back to the original question: why was this remarkable enough to be on the front page?
Drug dealer convicted? No – that happens all the time. Drug dealer in Peppermint Grove? No – that happens all the time too, and is happening right now, as we read this.
So is it that a drug dealer in Peppermint Grove was actually convicted? Does a drug dealer in Peppermint Grove usually receive the same treatment in the legal system as a drug dealer from Gosnells?
If The West’s focus on this story helped alert parents in the top tax bracket about the risks of drugs, perhaps that’s a good thing. But, please, let’s not pretend this was a one-off occurrence. Please, let’s wake up to the reality: drugs can and do exist in every part of our society, especially when bored teenagers have access to disposable income.
It’s our job, as parents and as responsible members of society, to face that reality.