Children as young as five are being forced to get drugs for their parents, those aged 11 and 12 are using ice themselves, and the problem is only getting worse, defiant Murray Bridge residents say.
"Birdsville" resident Mandy Trenorden said she had seen ice being sold from cars, a glass bottle thrown at a six-month-old, and had been chased by someone with a chainsaw.
"We've made over 1000 calls to SAPOL in (the past nine years) on domestic violence, drug deals being done openly in the street, children being assaulted and many other issues," she said.
"I could look out my window and see six ice houses."
Her neighbours often threatened retribution after she called police or Families SA, she said, but she encouraged more locals to dob in dealers anyway "because this is out of control".
Another woman, who wished to remain anonymous, said a drug operation next door to her business had led to fights and assaults.
"Daily there are I don't know how many going in and out of there," she said.
"They've got a better business going than we do.
"Kids go in to collect drugs and deliver them to their parents in the car park ... they'd be five and six years old, going into this house to get drugs.
"It's declined here at a rapid rate and it has to be stopped."
Xenophon wants mandatory rehab
Stories like theirs inspired a hard line from SA Best leader Nick Xenophon, who visited Murray Bridge on Tuesday to demand that South Australia's next government halve the rate of ice use in the state within two years.
Drug users would be sent to rehab, via an enforced visit to a detox facility if necessary, under laws he wants passed by June if his party wins the balance of power at the upcoming election.
Funding for treatment programs needed to be "significantly" boosted, more support provided to families, and drug dealers' assets confiscated, he said.
"What governments have been doing, Liberal and Labor, across the country hasn't been working," Mr Xenophon said.
"The thresholds to get into mandatory treatment are too high.
"Mandatory rehab is not about punishing people, it's about making sure they get the help they need, protecting them and protecting the community."
People had a right not to be crashed into by drug drivers running red lights, he said, or coward-punched by ice users on the street.
His party's candidate for Hammond, Kelly Gladigau, said there had been too much talk about the issue and not enough action.
In her work at a health clinic, she said she had seen children being neglected, who could not afford medication because their parents were drug users, or who lived in households where one parent would have to try to protect them from the other.
"It's heartbreaking for me as a mother and as a person ... to have to deal with children that do not get the medical treatment that they need, or that are put in this situation through no fault of their own," she said.
"People want to sugar-coat it, they don't want to talk about it, but it's not getting any better."
Community approach needed, says Pederick
In response, Liberal MP Adrian Pederick said the problem of ice and other drug use would only be solved with a whole-of-community effort, backed by state and federal governments.
He pointed to the leadership of the Murray Bridge Safe task force, of which he is a member, and the federally funded local drug action team.
The state Liberal Party would raise the maximum penalties for "the gateway drug" cannabis and strengthen drug diversion programs, he said, as well as enforcing a zero tolerance approach in prisons and enabling schools to make use of police sniffer dogs.
Labor candidate Mat O'Brien said the issue should not be used for political opportunity, and that Murray Bridge should not be seen as an isolated case.
“Murray Bridge remains a great place to live, work, learn and raise a family,” he said.
He said the state government had increased drug counselling appointments for locals and would invest an extra $8 million over four years on police investigations, sniffer dogs, counselling appointments, support for families and 15 regional rehab beds – though none in Murray Bridge.
Conservatives MP Dennis Hood said SA Best's target of a 50 per cent reduction in drug use was "a good headline but not a good policy".
However, he agreed mandatory rehabilition was part of the solution, along with heavy punishments for high-level dealers.