Huge surge in drug labs
CLANDESTINE drug laboratories have doubled in the past year with Queensland Police now shutting them down at a rate of almost one a day.
In the past 48 hours, busts have been made at Bribie Island and Capalaba, with 233 laboratories uncovered statewide since July 2009.
That figure is expected to reach 300 by the end of June, compared with 148 detections in 2008-09 and 121 in 2007-08.
The figures are four times that of any other state and Detective Senior Sergeant Andrew Massingham from the Illicit Laboratory Investigation Team said only a fifth of the labs were found in Brisbane.
"This isn't a problem that's confined to the city," he said.
"We're seeing it everywhere. We had one in Mount Isa four or five weeks ago. They're mostly in residences, but you get them in cars, motels, sheds, outhouses and caravans.
"In 15 years of policing, it's definitely the most significant increase I've seen."
Most of the labs were "addiction-based", he said. But Queensland police were seeing more larger production sites, with illegal manufacturers ordering equipment and finding recipes online.
Amateur chemists were resorting to vinegar bottles and even babies' bottles to make drugs, circumventing laws making it an offence to possess certain items of glassware.
"That improvisation comes from information sharing," said Det Sgt Massingham.
"We did an operation in Hervey Bay a while back where every lab was using the same sort of vinegar bottle."
As well as the information explosion, police were uncovering more labs, thanks to the growing awareness of emergency services and a system set up by pharmacies that triggers an automatic SMS to the Drug Squad when someone buys too much pseudoephedrine.
With ecstasy in short supply in Queensland, Det Sgt Massingham said the drugs of the moment were methylmethcathinone or "miaow-miaow", liquid fantasy, which was being sold in little plastic fish-shaped containers usually used for soy sauce, and BZP.
"We're also seeing some big rises in BZP, which is passed off as ecstasy but is about a quarter of the cost to manufacture."
The tell-tale signs of houses with drug labs included blacked-out windows, strange smells, constant running water, frequent visitors at all hours of the night and over-the-top security.
"Houses that appear to have very little need for security but have six surveillance cameras down the driveway, that's a dead giveaway," he said.
by Robyn Ironside
April 15, 2010 7:33PM
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