Police on occasions have adopted a pro-active, preventive approach to VSM. For example, in early 2002 police stationed in the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY Lands) in northern South Australia conducted a preventive exercise known as Operation Pitulu Wantima ('Petrol—Leave it Alone'). The operation involved placing four police officers on the APY Lands who worked with Community Constables. One aspect of the operation involved identifying petrol sniffers and, where it was safe to do so, emptying and crushing their petrol cans. Another aspect involved collecting data on the prevalence of petrol sniffing. During the operation, 302 instances of petrol sniffing were detected, involving 95 individual sniffers. A report into the operation concluded that the expanded police presence had been well received in communities, and had led to many requests for assistance with issues other than petrol sniffing (South Australia Coroner's Court, 2005).

Working regionally, the Substance Abuse Intelligence Desk (SAID) in Alice Springs collates intelligence and coordinates policing activities in the tri-state cross-border area of Central Australia. The SAID particularly targets petrol and other drug and alcohol trafficking (Henderson, 2006).

A recurring theme in discussions of the role of law enforcement agencies in addressing VSM is the relationship between police and health and welfare agencies. As mentioned above, the introduction of amended police powers in Victoria in 2004 was accompanied by a protocol designed to clarify just this issue.

A number of other instances of referral systems have also been documented. Anders (Anders, 2000; Gray et al., 2006) describes a system developed and trialled in Gippsland, Victoria, between May 1998 and March 2000, under which youths identified as 'high risk adolescents' (HRA)—as a result of mental health, substance abuse, accommodation problems or domestic violence—were referred by police to appropriate support or service agencies. The system was based on a Common Assessment Referral Form (CARF)—a single page assessment sheet designed to enable police to identify the client's most pressing needs and thereby to direct officers to making the most appropriate referral. The system was also supported by a HRA Reference Group composed of representatives of government and non-government agencies and local police. Referral wall charts were also prepared, identifying the most appropriate agency or contact for each risk type, so the CARF could be faxed to the appropriate agency/service at the time of completion. Officers in each police station were also given a short training session, including an overview of how to identify target groups.

A pilot study conducted in May 1999 found that the system had successfully helped police to identify HRAs and establish connections with appropriate agencies. The scheme was subsequently extended to all police stations in the Gippsland region, as well as to six local secondary schools and five medical services.

The Gippsland CARF was in turn used as the basis for a Common Assessment Referral Project in the Melbourne suburb of Mooney Valley (Riddell, 2003). Following media attention on inhalant use in the area, a local youth organisation monitored chroming sites over a four week period, and a local steering group was formed comprising representatives of various government and non-government agencies, including the police. A modified version of CARF was adopted in order to link young inhalant users with appropriate services. Riddell found that the project enhanced relationships between police and local services and helped to clarify police understanding of their 'duty of care'. At the same time, project effectiveness was undermined by staff turnover among agencies and transience among the inhalant user population.

Another monitoring and referral initiative is described by Scanlon (2003) in response to the emergence of 'chroming' in Townsville, Queensland, in the 2000–2001 school holidays. Local police at the time knew little about the effects or symptoms of VSM. Initial efforts were directed at training officers to recognise users and monitor chroming locations. School-based police officers compiled a list recording experimental, social and chronic users. In the first year more than 140 persons aged under 18 were identified. Early identification of users and locations of use enabled police to respond in a timely manner, and in some cases to consult with families. However, police lacked either the referral options or the authority to refer users for treatment. What was needed, argued Scanlon, was a treatment model accepted by the families, the professional community, and the users themselves.