Northern Tasmanian ice avalanche

Northern CIB’s Detective Inspector Scott Flude and Senior Sergeant Johnathan Higgins.
Northern CIB’s Detective Inspector Scott Flude and Senior Sergeant Johnathan Higgins.

NORTHERN Tasmania’s 10-fold increase in the amount of amphetamine seized last year tells a story of changing drug habits, a pivot in police priorities and an attempt by crims to fill a void.

When Northern Criminal Investigation Branch effectively smashed the Launceston Rebels outlaw motorcycle gang in 2011 it set off a chain reaction that saw the bottom fall out of the methamphetamine market.

The deceptively titled Operation Dorothy disrupted a drug ring on a scale that authorities say is rarely seen in Tasmania.

Launceston Rebels boss and former state president Colin David Picard, the so-called apex of the operation, was jailed and the Youngtown club headquarters abandoned.

Seizures of amphetamine-type drugs in the North nosedived from more than four kilograms to less than a quarter of that.

The next year it dropped by a further two thirds.

And then last year came the attempted rebuild.

Filling the void left by the busted bikies was a group of younger criminals with no outlaw motorcycle gang links, but as the shootings throughout Launceston, demonstrated a propensity for violence.

Police seizures of amphetamine-type drugs soared 1000 per cent to nearly four kilograms in the North.

The nearly $4 million in amphetamine taken off the streets in 2013-14 was through larger, more targeted busts of the ‘‘bigger players’’, Northern CIB Detective Inspector Scott Flude said.

Among the seized drugs was a greater amount of ice, a crystallised form of methamphetamine which is more pure and addictive.

‘‘It’s a growing problem for us and we’re feeling the effects of it here,’’ Detective Flude said.

‘‘It has a significant impact on the community not only criminally but also health wise and with mental illness.’’

Detective Flude said Tasmania was starting to import the problems that regional cities on the mainland have witnessed.

So making large busts is ‘‘satisfying’’ for the CIB which has seen its priorities shift to a greater emphasis on targeting methamphetamine.

‘‘People on speed are more likely to go on a crime rampage ... because once you get hooked you need a lot of cash to sustain the habit,’’ he said.

Alcohol, Tobacco and other Drugs Council chief executive Jann Smith said the increase in methamphetamine seizures meant a few things.

‘‘Number one, police have made concerted efforts to target producers and distributors,’’ she said.

‘‘I think we need to be careful about talking about it as an epidemic (but) the use of methamphetamine has been a concern across our sector for some time.’’

Ms Smith said new national drug treatment data showed an increase in the number of people seeking help for meth use.

She said the increase also demonstrated an opportunistic drug market.

‘‘Anecdotally ... we’ve heard these drugs come in peaks and troughs,’’ she said.

In some regional areas usage might increase where a new drug dealer moves in and it leads to increased availability, she said.

Ms Smith said education about the health risks associated with using methamphetamine, especially intravenously, was critical.

‘‘It’s known that once people begin injecting it, it’s unlikely they go back to using it other ways.’’


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