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15 May 2015—Law enforcement agencies break national record for 2013-14 drug seizures and arrests

Minister for Justice

Law enforcement agencies break national record for 2013-14 drug seizures and arrests

15 May 2015

More drugs have been seized than ever before and more people arrested for illicit drugs offences, according to a new report by the Australian Crime Commission.

Today I released the Illicit Drug Data Report 2013-14 with ACC chief executive Chris Dawson which shows Australian law enforcement agencies seized a record 27 tonnes of illicit drugs in 93,000 seizures and made more than 110 000 arrests.

That's more than 255 seizures and 300 arrests each day directly related to illicit drugs offences.

While there is no doubt we are disrupting more criminals and detecting more illicit drugs than ever before, the illicit drug market remains the principle source of profit for organised crime and continues to be a key focus for law enforcement in Australia.

Key findings of the report include:

  • Cannabis arrests peaked at 66,684 - the highest ever on record. Authorities conducted 53,404 seizures confiscating a total of 7,074 kilograms;
  • 15,737 kilograms of illicit drugs classified as "other drugs" seized increased by 605.9 per cent as a direct consequence of a single 10 tonne seizure of benzaldehyde, a chemical used in the manufacture of methylamphetamine;
  • There were 26,269 arrests for Amphetamine-Type Stimulants, resulting in 26,805 seizures with 4076 kilograms seized;
  • 744 clandestine laboratories were detected producing drugs such as ice and ecstacy, 12 per cent of those labs were found in vehicles;
  • 158 kilograms of heroin was seized from 1598 drug seizures, resulting in 2771 arrests; and
  • 317 kilograms of cocaine was seized from 3121 seizures, resulting in 1466 arrests.

Australians pay top dollar for illicit substances. Making bad life choices to not only bankroll criminal networks that profit from the misery and havoc drugs inflict on our communities, but ensure our nation remains a lucrative market and target for dangerous international crime syndicates.

There is a perception among some drug users that their drug use hurts no one, but the impact of illicit drug use should never be underestimated - the unknown health impacts, the psychological affects, the dangers of drug manufacturing, and the contribution of drug use to wider crimes such as thefts, robberies, assaults, family violence, deaths and even terrorism.

In our first 18 months the Coalition Government invested heavily in law enforcement agencies, and introduced tough legislation to prosecute those who seek to peddle this harm.

On coming to Government the Coalition fast-tracked the National Anti-Gang Squad, which includes strike teams in Victoria, NSW, WA and QLD and liaison officers in South Australia and Northern Territory. These teams supply the intelligence that feeds our understanding of the illicit drug market, and are leading the charge to detect and disrupt the business models of organised criminal gangs.

We opened the Australian Gangs Intelligence Coordination Centre within the Australian Crime Commission, to collate and share cross-border intelligence and we boosted screening at our borders with $88 million following harsh cuts by the ALP.

Further we introduced new laws to the Parliament enabling a crackdown on middle-men and drug couriers bringing precursors into the country to make illicit drugs like ice, and we changed legislation to manage the proliferation of dangerous synthetic drugs at our borders.

Our law enforcement agencies are going as hard as they can with the tools we have provided, but despite these efforts the entrenched, evolving and lucrative organised criminal market for the production, distribution and use of illicit drugs has been the catalyst for the mounting harm and havoc inflicted on our communities - particularly the rise in the use of ice.

Later this month at the Law Crime and Community Safety Council meeting in Canberra I will push for national consistency regarding the management of precursor chemicals used to manufacture ice. At present different state and territory jurisdictions have different controls, and organised criminal gangs are exploiting the anomalies to divert legitimate chemicals including some horrific products - fertiliser, varnish, cleaning products - to the illicit market to manufacture ice.

While the Illicit Drug Data Report 2013-14 shows drug use is varied, the Australian Crime Commission considers ice poses the highest risk of all illicit drugs to our community with the rates of its use almost doubling in the last year.

That is why last month the Prime Minister announced the Commonwealth Government would work with States and Territories to develop a National Ice Action Strategy to tackle the growing scourge of ice.

The first step in developing a National Ice Action Strategy was the establishment of a National Ice Taskforce which is being led by Ken Lay APM who was Chief Commissioner of Victoria Police from 2011 until very recently.

The Taskforce began consultations this week, to examine all existing efforts to address ice and identify ways to take a systematic, comprehensive and coordinated approach to education, health and law enforcement.

A televised education campaign is also under way, warning that our nation's growing addiction to this mind-eating, personality-distorting, life-ending drug was ruining individuals, destroying families, and hurting communities.

The Illicit Drug Data Report 2013-14 is an important snapshot which provides governments, law enforcement agencies and policy makers with vital statistics regarding Australia's illicit drug market.

It pulls together information from all state and territory police agencies, the Australian Federal Police and the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service and shows that law enforcement is making significant inroads in the fight against illicit drugs.

I congratulate the Australian Crime Commission on the delivery of the report. These statistics will inform prioritisation and decision-making to help protect Australia against the threat, harm and destruction caused by illicit drugs.

The report can be found at www.crimecommission.gov.au.