One of the busiest weekends on the music festival calendar has been marred by arrests for drug and alcohol offences across the country.

The Melbourne leg of Future Music Festival, held on Sunday at Flemington Racecourse, saw Victoria Police arrest 71 people as part of their Passive Alert Detection (PAD) dog operation. With the help of sniffer dogs, police officers patrolled the area outside Flemington Racecourse, where the event was held, to catch punters before they got in.

With 50,000 attendees there to catch the likes of The Stone Roses, Bloc Party, The Prodigy, and “Gangnam Style” sensation PSY, it seems the girls were better behaved than the boys, with 62 of the 71 offenders being male. As The Herald Sun reports, illicit drugs such as cannabis, ecstasy and GHB were found hidden in cigarette packets, wallets and down underwear of offenders.

Much to the frustration of police, the numbers are up from last year’s Future Music Festival, where 45 people were arrested.

In a report from Victoria Police, Senior Sergeant Mark Pilkington said, “these drugs are extremely dangerous to peoples health… They are manufactured by criminals and therefore people have no idea what they are taking or the real risks involved.”

The arrests come the day after the Sydney leg of Future, with equal crowd numbers yet almost double the amount of people charged. Held at Randwick Racecourse in Sydney’s east, 140 revellers went home in the back of a divvy van for offences including supplying illicit drugs, assault, and breaking bail, as reported in The Sydney Morning Herald.

On top of the 140 arrests, NSW Police ejected 164 festival-goers while 165 were searched and moved on, with 33 infringement notices issued, mostly for offensive behaviour. “These drugs are extremely dangerous to peoples health… They are manufactured by criminals and therefore people have no idea what they are taking or the real risks involved.” – Senior Sergeant Mark Pilkington

Future wasn’t the only festival with law-breakers this weekend, as Launceston’s Breath Of Life Festival saw 20 people charged before they even arrived at the Inveresk Showgrounds to catch the likes of Flume, Birds of Tokyo, 360 and international headliner Dizzee Rascal.

According to The Examiner, police caught 20 people drinking alcohol in public on their way to the Sunday event. Inspector Michael Johnston said it was the first time they had decided to target people before the festival, and given the outcome, they would be more vigilant with it next year.

Fortunately, not all festivals were overshadowed by bad behaviour. The sold-out 37th Port Fairy Folk Festival saw 20,000 people flock to the seaside town for three days and three nights of arts and music, including performances by Xavier Rudd, Tim Finn and Glen Hansard with little crowd trouble at the family focussed affair.

Premier Denis Napthine praised it as “one of the greatest events in Australia” in The Standard, and according to The Border Mail, “police were delighted” with the outcome.

Leading Senior Constable Greg Creek stated “We had one drunk on Saturday night but generally people have been very well behaved… Other than the single-vehicle car accident on Friday night there have been no other incidents of a serious nature.”

A similar outcome arose from the 7th annual Golden Plains Music Festival, where 10,000 music lovers once again descended onto the Meredith Supernatural Amphitheatre in Victoria’s north-west.

As The Courier reported on Sunday, Bannockburn Police acting Sergeant Craig Grant said the crowd had been well behaved.

“The crowd behaviour has been fantastic as usual… The event was very well organised and we are very happy with the way it is going. We have had wonderful weather and everyone is enjoying themselves,” Grant said.

Golden Plains’ more relaxed nature could be thanks to their one-stage and BYO policy, the same for Meredith Music Festival held each December at the same location. With 13,000 attendees, last year’s event counted just two arrests across three days, by contrast, one-day electronic music festival, Stereosonic, held on the same weekend, saw close to 100 people charged with drug offences.“It is concerning that despite the warnings, there are still people who choose to do the wrong thing.” – Senior Sergeant Mark Pilkington

Drugs at festivals continue to be a major issue, says Victorian Police Senior Sergeant Mark Pilkington, stating after the Future Music Festival Melbourne arrests that since December over 350 people have been arrested for drug-related crimes at music festivals.

This year’s Big Day Out was tainted by bad behaviour in Sydney and the Gold Coast, as over 100 Sydneysiders were caught bringing in illicit drugs by sniffer dogs and Cub Scouts frontman, Tim Nelson, was the victim of an unprovoked attack at the Gold Coast show.

Over 50 people were arrested at last week’s Soundwave Festival in Melbourne, as The Australian reported. Again present at the scene, Sen-Sgt Mark Pilkington said that Victoria Police will continue to use sniffer dogs at these events to tackle illegal drug use.

The Snr Sgt said police were ‘baffled’ at punters wanting to continually risk criminal offences in bringing drugs to music events.

“It is concerning that despite the warnings, there are still people who choose to do the wrong thing,” Sen-Sgt Pilkington said. “You really have no idea what you are putting in your body, and you have no idea what it will do to you.”

This hard line was debated in our opinion editorial piece in January, arguing that “creating an element of fear” for festival-goers is more detrimental than helpful.

Regardless, Victoria Police will continue to have a strong presence at music festivals, claiming they will be “targeting those responsible for trafficking illegal substances but also reducing the impact of drugs on our community.”

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