A recent surge in the levels of dark web crime in New Zealand has the nation’s law enforcement authorities concerned.
As many countries across the globe grapple with the onslaught of dark web criminal activities, New Zealand seems to be struggling significantly.
You could easily agree if the recent developments over the past two years are anything to go by—from increasing overdoses linked to drugs bought on darknet markets to valuable stolen paintings found for sale in the dark web, New Zealand seems to have seen it all.
New Zealand’s law enforcement agencies have started to appreciate the need to up their game in dealing with dark web crime.
Inspector Webb’s Project
These developments have in particular had one top Auckland officer, Inspector Scott Webb, very concerned. This compelled him to investigate the dealings of the dark web as part of his master’s degree project.
Webb is studying for a Master of International Security at Massey University. He delved into the popular dark web market, the Silk Road. Silk Road was the first and most popular marketplace on the dark web. The proprietor of the Silk Road has since been jailed and the market taken down.
Webb was seeking to borrow some insight from the strategies employed by the law enforcement agencies involved in busting the Silk Road syndicate.
He sought to also build more on these strategies to curb darknet markets from sprouting in the first place. He noted that a new marketplace usually sprouts out in the place of the previous one, immediately after it has been taken down.
High Illegal Trade Prevalence in New Zealand
Webb is concerned about the high prevalence of illegal trade being carried out. He notes that the dark web has enabled criminals to propagate their illegal acts, while still remaining with a good reputation.
Before, criminals would most likely be known among various circles, and it was always just a matter of time before they were brought to book.
Today, thanks to the dark web, the tables have completely been turned. Your coworker, best friend or even your spouse could be a drug-dealing criminal on the dark web, and you have absolutely no idea.
New Zealand has fallen victim to devastating effects of dark web crime over the last couple of months.
The number of Kiwis trafficking drugs into New Zealand through the dark web is worrying. More and more seizures are being made at the borders.
The amount of MDMA seized is reported to have increased by 13 kilograms in 2017 from 8.7 kilograms in 2016. That’s an increase of over 100 percent.
Among these drugs is a dangerous synthetic drug known as NBOMe. Approximately 8,100 tabs of the drug were seized in 2016 while headed to Hastings.
The drug is known to cause intense hallucination and, in some cases, death. The 8,100 tabs represented two-thirds of the whole amount seized that year.
Adverse Effects Experienced
The effects of the increase in drug trafficking have hit New Zealand hard. In February this year, high school kids in Queensland overdosed on a drug suspected to have been bought from the dark web and had to be rushed to the hospital. Some of the boys spent days in the ICU in critical conditions.
In another notable incident, a teenager named Elias Valentin Smith was arrested for operating a drug ring from his parents’ home in North Shore. It is scary to imagine the depth to which such exposure to young adults is detrimental. Smith is said to have learned the trade from his peers.
In another incident that attracted the world’s attention, a 133-year-old painting was discovered on sale in the dark web after it had been stolen from an Auckland art gallery in a ram raid. The painting was a masterpiece by Gottfried Lindauer, a famous painter of the 19th century from New Zealand.
Inspector Webb’s Resolve
It is incidences like these that have Webb studying hard and delving into various quarters of the dark web to establish various means of curbing the trend.
He believes that many people are not yet aware of the dangers posed by illegal activity on the dark web. The larger population in New Zealand is not tech-savvy enough to know about the dealings of the dark web.
Webb has indicted that the authorities in New Zealand are working around the clock to double their focus on the dark web and put themselves in a better position to curb the runaway crime.
He says law enforcement will now be closer to the citizen that they know. He has emphasized the need to build the capacity of law enforcement officers, as far as the dark web is concerned.
He noted the great lengths to which Europol and Federal Bureau of Investigation had to go to bring down Silk Road and its administrator.
The criminals continue to get creative, and the law enforcement officers should be able to keep up, or better yet, be ahead of them.
Inspector Webb is optimistic that New Zealand can build the capacity to deal with dark web crime fast enough, to remove the tracks the criminals are riding on.
The fact that even young adults have been taken on the bandwagon is unfortunate, and every effort is needed to ensure this vice is halted with immediate effect.
The border police have had to go through thousands, if not millions of envelopes to ensure no drugs are being trafficked into the country.
Webb has requested that funding is increased to train the officers and set up more protective systems.
Though dark web crime has been a concern in many countries across the globe, the situation in New Zealand has been getting out of hand. For law enforcement authorities, it has been gratifying to see one person taking the mantle to lead the fight against these detrimental vices.
The internet should be a source of good things, not dangerous and harmful practices. Webb’s efforts may just be what is needed to reverse the path of destruction taken by many dark web criminals in the country.
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