Police close to confiscating $60m in crime proceeds
More than $52 million in crime proceeds have been confiscated by serious and organised crime detectives in 2009, while drug seizures are already up on last year's totals.
The success of Operation Kukri - which targeted clandestine crystal methylamphetamine labs in Perth and Mandurah over the past two weeks and included a haul of 2.6kg of crystal meth from a home in Stirling - was a late-year highlight for detectives in WA's war on drugs, following massive seizures including a haul of 42,000 BZP tablets found in a suitcase.
Detective Superintendent Charlie Carver said the serious and organised crime division had a "significant amount" of people working inside of it, and the squad's core focus was on crime proceeds, groups looking to establish criminal networks and outlaw motorcycle clubs.
Several weeks ago, there was plenty of publicity about the Rock Machine national run through Perth over a weekend.
The Canadian-based motorcycle club is looking to establish a foothold in the Perth scene, and there are reports they already have around 20 members.
"(The run through Perth) didn't go very well for them," Detective Carver said.
"It was good for us, it turned into a non-event. It's just about looking at and making sure that we keep a watching brief on all outlaw motorcycle gangs in this state that are already here and any that might be wanting to come into the state.
"(Our job is) to disrupt or dismantle their activities because it's a pretty well known fact that they're involved in illicit drug manufacturing and distribution."
Detective Carver would not say how many Rock Machine members participated in the run, but he confirmed it lasted three days.
The serious and organised crime squad also targets drug crime and drug smuggling into WA and Detective Carver said drug seizures for 2009 were well ahead of the same time last year.
Highlight operations included 14kg (or 42,000 pills) of BZP - that were originally thought to be ecstasy tablets - while over 2.6kg of crystal methylamphetamines, along with $46,000 cash and 240mL of steroids, were seized from a Stirling house earlier this month as part of Operation Kukri.
The street value of the drugs found in Stirling was estimated at $2.6 million while $700,000 worth of assets were frozen.
"We've had significant seizures this year," Detective Carver said. "Earlier this year, we seized 6kg of meth and 3kg of cocaine, which was a big seizure.
"In general we've had a lot of really good seizures, we've had plenty of arrests and many people have been charged with a whole heap of offences."
But Detective Carver said it was hard to say whether police were winning or losing the war on drugs.
"I suppose time will tell and history will dictate," he said. "But from a serious and organised crime perspective we do as much as we possibly can to dismantle and disrupt established criminal networks and people trafficking drugs across WA.
"The impacts in relation to the health issues are felt significantly across a lot of other areas as well, so we do as much as we can as a team to disrupt and dismantle those people that bring drugs into the (state).
"Drugs are basically the core focus and obviously the assets derived form those particular drugs that are being brought into the state."
Detectives rely on information from the public, to the extent the squad would not exist today if they did not have assistance from the wider community.
"Our role is to work for them, and the public are the ones who give us information and we act on the information when it comes through, and obviously have their results achieved," he said.
Seizing proceeds of crime is also high on the agenda of the serious and organised crime squad, and so far this year detectives have frozen more than $52 million worth of assets.
In one week alone, police seized $1.1 million and $700,000 in two separate jobs.
With a few more weeks to go this year, Detective Carver said they were on track to match last year's mammoth $60 million in asset seizures.
Methylamphetamine use explodes
According to Detective Carver, data given to police showed that WA, per capita, has the highest amount of methylamphetamine addicts in the country.
"That's a concern for us and other departments," he said. "It's a worry and something we're trying to keep on top of.
"Meth is easier to get these days, people still get a high out of it. Clan labs are being made as well.
"People who traditionally were buying drugs are now making the drugs themselves because it's there on the internet and they can actually look it up and through word of mouth it spreads."
Operation Kukri led to the discovery of seven clandestine drug labs around Perth and Mandurah, which brought the number of labs police have located in 2009 to 124, significantly up from the 28 found last year.
"Ten years ago, you probably wouldn't have seen clan labs," he said. "Meth had only just come into play.
"There has (also) been an upswing in the use of cocaine and that's something that's also concerning for us.
"Heroin has always been there, but it appears that heroin use is decreasing, where the increase is in meth and cocaine and stimulant-type drugs from the younger scene."
Detective Carver said the ongoing challenge for the serious and organised crime squad was trying to break down established criminal networks and disrupt the efforts of smugglers trying to bring drugs into the state.
"That's something we'll continue to do," he said. "We don't back away from it, we just push forward and the challenges are to increase the amount of seizures that we have got and to charge as many people as we can in relation to drug importation and the distribution of drugs across the state.
"And obviously seize as many assets as we can in relation to what they're doing there because it takes away the ability for them to do what they do."
And he delivered a blunt message for the motorcycle clubs looking to set up camp in WA in years to come.
"Not here, not ever," he said.
"We've got OMCGs here that have been established over many years and obviously people will trot out that it's not unlawful to establish an OMCG group here.
"It's just the issues that go with it in relation to illicit drugs and other issues that go with OMCGs themselves and obviously that's our job to police and enforce those particular gangs."
December 21, 2009 - 8:21AM