Twice as much ice was seized by northern police during the peak of the coronavirus pandemic, but less made it into the state from the mainland.
During an eight-month period, while borders were closed, police in the North were given an opportunity to focus on targeted drug operations - seizing more than one thousand grams of ice between April 1 and December 1.
This was compared to nearly 500 grams seized during the same period last year.
Although more drugs were taken off the streets this year, Detective Inspector Craig Fox from the Northern Criminal Investigation Branch said border closures resulted in less drugs overall coming into the island state, and therefore less crime.
HOW IT GETS IN
Ice is not traditionally manufactured in Tasmania, and when the drug does end up on the state's streets, it has usually come from interstate.
And it comes via air, sea, or post.
As part of their daily operations, drug investigators continually monitor and target the state's airports, the Spirit of Tasmania, and Australia Post.
But during the pandemic, less people were able to fly into the state, and incoming passengers were greeted by a stronger police presence at terminals.
"The lockdowns really made it harder for drug importers," Detective Inspector Fox said.
"Tasmania does not manufacture a great deal of ice, we did see a couple of local clandestine labs, some were active, some were not, so there seems to be more of an appetite to try and manufacture ice in Tasmania. But with less ice coming in and on the streets, we definitely saw evidence of less people using ice, and then less crimes committed to feed a drug habit. We are seeing that in figures across the board, with significant reductions in burglaries, and stealing, and other crimes since April this year.
"The fact that those supply chains were interrupted, and some of them stopped, other suppliers may take some time to get back up and running, so with a stronger police presence out at the airports still, hopefully we can get an even greater handle on the drugs coming in from now on.
"There might even be some new players, but it's a really good opportunity for us to keep those distribution networks under control."
While more drugs were taken off the streets this year, more than half of those drugs were seized during two major police operations.
The first of those operations - Operation OSSA - took place in May, when more than 200 grams of ice, valued at more than $250,000 was seized, and a 46-year-old Invermay woman was charged with trafficking in a controlled drug.
Operation BEAN took place in September, and resulted in about 400 grams of ice - with a street value of more than $500,000 - being seized by detectives, and a 28-year-old Kings Meadows man being charged with trafficking, firearms offences, and property offences.
Significant seizures throughout the year were not limited to operations though, with a number of busts during routine screenings.
Tens of thousands of dollars worth of ice was seized after police detected a suspicious package during one of their mail screenings in August.
The package had been mailed to a Hadspen home from interstate, and police later raided that home and found about 28 grams of ice, with a potential street value of about $30,000.
Not only ice was seized this year, with more cannabis uncovered.
More than 56,000 grams was seized during that eight-month period, compared with 43,834.21 grams of cannabis seized for the same period last year.
It was a different story for ecstasy, with 848 tablets seized last year, compared to eight this year.
Shortly after borders opened, police seized twice as much ice as they had in the entire eight-month period while states were closed.
Detectives from both the North and the West worked together in a joint operation, seizing $2 million worth of the drug from a car coming off the Spirit of Tasmania in December.
It was not the only big bust off the boat either.
Earlier in the year, about $500,000 worth of ice was seized during a joint operation between Tasmania Police, Biosecurity Tasmania and Spirit of Tasmania staff.
TARGETING USERS ON THE BEAT
Tasmania Police has dedicated drug squads, but the fight against ice also involves officers out on the frontline.
Frontline police are confronted by aggressive people high on ice daily, only highlighting the widespread impact of drugs in the state.
While the detectives focus on wider distribution, those officers out on the streets target drug users, and gather intel to assist with disrupting dealers.
Two of those officers are dog handlers Senior Constable Jareth Anderson and Constable Gavin Storay.
The pair work with Police Dog Fang, who has been on the job for nearly four years.
During a Saturday night patrol with both Senior Constable Anderson and Constable Storay, Fang will visit pub lines, and sniff around alleyways in search of illicit drugs.
Met with a mixture of aggressive, intoxicated patrons, and members of the public pleasantly surprised to see Fang, the officers spend the night trying to keep the city drug free.
And while they both know drugs will never be completely eliminated, the mission for the dog handlers is to minimise the impact drugs have on the community, and to keep patrons safe in the CBD.
"When we are out with P.D Fang in the community, whether it is during the day in the CBD and parks or in the evening around the licensed premises, we always receive positive feedback from both members of the community and business owners, who welcome the presence of both police and the dog on the beat," Senior Constable Anderson said.
"Some interactions are very positive, such as providing much needed help to someone in crisis, other interactions unfortunately are far more complicated and serious in nature.
"Naturally the nature of policing is fluid and very dynamic, requiring police to respond to any conceivable call for help, assistance or to enforce legislation - however we simply get on with the job and go home to our families when it's time to knock off."
THE POSITIVES OF THE PANDEMIC
While police maintained their focus on drug importation and distribution, the pandemic offered a unique opportunity for detectives in the North to shift some of their attention towards other investigations, including historic missing persons cases.
"It is not just drugs we deal with, so it has given us an opportunity to focus on some of those older cases," Detective Inspector Fox said.
"Whilst those cases have always remained open, cases like Nancy Grunwaldt, Christopher Watkins, Victoria Cafasso, we have been able to concentrate some more resources on those to make sure any past information is reviewed."
The quieter period also allowed police in the North to focus further on less obvious dealers.
"We have our key players in drugs, and we had been concentrating on those people say in the previous six months, and this past six months or so has given us an opportunity to concentrate more on those lesser known distributors," Detective Inspector Fox said.
"While ice is our major focus, we still do a lot of work with cannabis, ecstasy, steroids, and other drugs. Going into the summer months we target cannabis growers, and we seize a lot of plants over those months. There are still people in Tasmania profiting from the sale of cannabis, and it is still the drug of choice for Tasmanians."
OTHER SERIOUS CRIMES
While crime in general dropped across the state in 2020, detectives still investigated a number of serious offences, including a more recent alleged murder.
In the North, the year began with several armed robberies, which included a pregnant shop worker being threatened with what was believed to be a firearm.
The robberies unfolded on a Friday afternoon in January, with both Ravenswood BWS and Waverley's Top Shop targeted within 15 minutes.
The robber, Albert Frederick Riley, was armed with a toy pistol and brandishing a machete when he demanded cash and cigarettes.
He was later charged and sentenced to seven years' jail.
In July, a man was stabbed in what police described as a random attack at Zap Fitness in Kings Meadows.
Paul Justin Smyth, 45, was charged, and later pleaded not guilty in the Launceston Magistrates Court.
In September, a teenage juice bar worker was left with serious injuries after a robbery at the Launceston business.
The 19-year-old woman was working at the juice bar on Park Street when a man assaulted her and stole a quantity of cash from the register.
Michael John Cowie, 38, of no fixed address was later charged with aggravated robbery.
The latest major crime occurred in December, when a woman was allegedly murdered by a man at a home in Wellington Street.
Tobias Pick, 27 of Germany, was charged after the woman was found dead on Boxing Day, but has yet to enter a plea over the death.
Despite these more serious incidents, Detective Inspector Fox said police still had not seen a spike in crime more generally since restrictions eased, and borders opened.
"We are not silly enough to think this is the new normal for crime rates, and drug use, and there is no doubt the crime rate will increase again at some stage, and the availability of drugs will increase again, but it is going to take a while," Detective Inspector Fox said.
"The fact that there is still a heavy police presence at ports, as well as airport security, and biosecurity, that is still discouraging distributors and disrupting their supply chains."
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