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DUMA program overview: 2009 and 2010

What is DUMA?

Established in 1999, the DUMA program is a quarterly collection of criminal justice and drug use information from police detainees at multiple sites (police stations or watch-houses) across Australia. It is the only nationwide survey of alleged offenders and is conducted on a routine basis. In 2009 and 2010, DUMA operated at nine sites across the country, including at least one site in each mainland capital city. A significant advantage of DUMA’s national coverage and quarterly collection is that information can be provided to the police and other stakeholders in a timely manner (usually within four to six weeks) to assist in the development of strategic responses to local and national drug/crime issues. The DUMA program is unique in this regard.

There are two parts to the information collected. The first component is a self-report questionnaire conducted with a trained interviewer and independent of the police. The questionnaire collects demographic data and other information about each detainee’s drug use history, drug market participation, treatment history and prior contact with the criminal justice system. The second component is a urine sample that is sent to a toxicology unit and tested for seven different classes of drug. Participation in the survey and the provision of a urine sample is voluntary and all information provided by the detainee (including the results of the urinalysis) is confidential and cannot be linked back to the detainee (for more details, see Makkai 1999).

Monitoring the prevalence and patterns of drug use among police detainees offers a number of significant advantages over alternative data collections. Unlike drug arrests and seizure data from police administrative systems, the DUMA program has the capacity to examine the extent and nature of drug use that may not otherwise come to the attention of law enforcement agencies. This is important because drug arrest and seizure data are more likely to reflect policing priorities and operational practices that could skew our understanding of local drug markets. Further, police detainees are a key sentinel population whose patterns of drug use are likely to be of significant value in the formulation of policy and programs. Unlike general household and incarcerated offender surveys, DUMA’s focus on police detainees ensures a targeted approach to populations that are likely to have had the most recent and close contact with local drug markets. Research suggests that police detainees are likely to be the first group within a particular area to begin using a new drug and are more likely to partake in its use than non-detainees (Bennett 1998). There is no other known source of data on drugs and offending among this population in Australia.

The inclusion of voluntary urinalysis for ongoing monitoring and research purposes is unique in Australia to the DUMA study and is an important aspect of the research. Through the collection and analysis of urine, DUMA allows self-reported information on recent drug use to be cross-validated and verified with results of the urinalysis. Urinalysis has been identified as a major strength of DUMA, as it objectively measures the prevalence of drug use by detainees within a specified period and allows for valid comparisons across time. Its role in cross-validating the interviewer-collected self-report data is an invaluable countermeasure to the problems of under-reporting identified in other studies (see Makkai 1999).

The purpose of DUMA is to provide an evidence base for creating policy on issues relevant to drugs and crime. It achieves this through:

  • monitoring a particular group that comes into contact with the criminal justice system and is involved in crime and drug markets;
  • providing regular tracking data that allows law enforcement and other key stakeholders at the state, territory and federal level to examine trends;
  • providing information on co-morbidity (for example, drug dependency and mental health) to assist in resource allocation and service provision in the health sector;
  • validating self-reported recent drug use with urine testing;
  • identifying key differences in illicit drug use across Australia over time; and
  • providing information on other issues of importance to law enforcement, such as drug driving and the use of weapons in crime.

The nine DUMA sites active at the beginning of 2009 represent a range of different community configurations, including major state capital cities, metropolitan city areas, major tourist destinations and regional centres.

Addenda

The DUMA survey instrument is comprised of two core components: a core questionnaire and a quarterly addendum. Each addendum includes as many as 30 additional questions on specific topics of importance to both policymakers and practitioners. These various addenda are developed in consultation with both Commonwealth and state stakeholders and seek to collect timely information on emerging issues of policy relevance.

In 2009–10, the following addenda were developed and implemented:

Quarter 1, 2009—Prescription drugs (Adelaide, Bankstown, Brisbane, Darwin, East Perth, Footscray, Kings Cross and Southport).

Quarter 2, 2009—Initiation into drug use (Adelaide, Bankstown, Brisbane, Darwin, East Perth, Footscray, Parramatta and Southport).

Quarter 3, 2009—No addenda, due to revision of core questionnaire.

Quarter 4, 2009—Desistance from drug use (Adelaide, Bankstown, Brisbane, Darwin, East Perth, Footscray, Parramatta and Southport).

Quarter 1, 2010—Mental health (Bankstown, Brisbane, Darwin, East Perth, Kings Cross, and Southport) and victimisation and fear of crime (Adelaide and Footscray).

Quarter 2, 2010—Victimisation and fear of crime (Adelaide, Bankstown, Brisbane, Darwin, East Perth, Footscray, Parramatta and Southport).

Quarter 3, 2010—New drugs (Adelaide, Bankstown, Brisbane, Darwin, East Perth, Footscray, Kings Cross and Southport).

Quarter 4, 2010—Diversion and drug preferences (Adelaide, Bankstown, Brisbane, Darwin, East Perth, Footscray, Parramatta and Southport).

Table 1: Date of establishment of DUMA sites
SiteCommencement date and quarterDiscontinued
East Perth 1999 (quarter 1)
Southport 1999 (quarter 1)
Bankstown 1999 (quarter 3)
Parramatta 1999 (quarter 3)
Brisbane 2002 (quarter 1)
Adelaide 2002 (quarter 2)
Elizabeth 2002 (quarter 2) 2007 (quarter 2)
Darwin 2006 (quarter 1)
Footscray 2006 (quarter 1)
Alice Springs 2007 (quarter 3) 2008 (quarter 2)
Kings Cross 2009 (quarter 1)

Note: A full list of fieldwork dates for 2009 and 2010 is provided in Appendix A