INVERELL is one of several towns across the region battling the ice epidemic as the number of detections and the quantities being seized have doubled in the New England in less than 12 months.
Across the New England Command, the value of the hauls seized in 2015 climbed well into the six figure mark, with several significant deals intercepted before they hit the streets.
In a co-ordinated crackdown to tackle the illegal drug trade, and backed by community tip-offs, investigators are seizing larger quantities of crystal methamphetamine than ever before.
Police have crunched the drug data for the nine months to December, 2015, and compared with the previous year’s figures, recorded seizures of crystal methamphetamine has skyrocketed, triggering more arrests for drug supplies.
“Those detections that we’ve had this recent period where we might have seized 2g in the past, we are now seizing substantial amounts which are quantities deemed to be for supply, and under those provisions that is quantities of more than 5g,” New England crime manager Detective Inspector Ann Joy said.
Ice is usually sold in 0.1g hits and can fetch as much as $100 on the street.
Stolen property, illegal guns, dangerous weapons and other illicit drugs were just some of the goods also seized by officers during the detection of ice across towns like Inverell as well as Armidale and Glen Innes.
Detective Inspector Joy said there was a lot of work going on behind the scenes to bring down drug supply chains.
“That’s often by search warrants, covert investigations, all those types of strategies have been utilised by our criminal investigation branches and our Target Action Group which stems from community information,” she said. The community concern about the drug ice and the limited number of rehabilitation services available in regional areas, meant it was critical the community joined forces with police, Detective Inspector Joy said.
“It’s the addictive nature of the drug that drives property crime and other crimes of violence and it has been a priority for the command and the state to target,” she said.
“We deal with it on a day-to-day basis, and anyone confronted with a methamphetamine-affected individual would know their behaviour is unpredictable, they are more aggressive and there is the increased risk for officer safety. It’s often more difficult to protect my officers and it will often take a number of police to control those individuals.”
There have been close calls and some officers have been injured in the line of duty to subdue ice-affected locals, but targeting how the drugs were making their way into the New England is one of the top priorities for the Command in 2016.
Detective Inspector Joy said having a sniffer dog on call, sweeps of licenced premises as well as the drug driving testing equipment by highway officers - all at their fingertips - was detailing “the prevalence of methamphetamines in the community”.
“We are finding it is affecting regional communities, it’s often more difficult to target in those areas because of the reduced number of support services be it in health or education,” she said.
“We often get information about the concentration of needles found at the location, that is an indicator of a lot of activity, all those sorts of pieces of information assist us to target our operations.”
Detective Inspector Joy said investigators were working hand in hand with key community stakeholders to battle the drug scourge but said police were relying on individuals to ‘dob in a dealer’ before their loved ones, friends or neighbours became a victim of crime, fuelled by drug addictions.
“The information provided could be the missing piece of the puzzle, and whatever way we get that information it can still be valuable to us because we do examine every report,” she said.