The authorities in Queensland, Australia have faced a challenging task of capturing drug manufacturers for years.
The job has become even harder with the emergence of the dark web.
Based on recent reports, in spite of the increase in the number of drug offenders, the police have had a decrease in the home drug labs they have found by over 50 percent.
The police blame the difficulty in busting these drug criminals on the increase in drug sales on the dark web.
They reported that lately, drug users have an easy time accessing what they need online.
Besides the dark web, portable drug labs have made it a challenge for the police to locate the manufacturers.
Statistical reports indicate that between 2017 and 2018, the police shut down 139 illegal drug manufacturing laboratories.
However, five years before then, they managed to shut down 379 labs.
This decline in performance is significant considering that the number of drug users between 2017 and 2018 has increased by almost twice the number five years before.
A Change in the Drug Business
Drug manufacturers have found a new way to remain undetected. Detective Senior Sergeant Sasha Finney of the synthetic drug unit at Queensland Police Service reported that manufacturers now purchase chemicals online.
This way, it is not easy to track their interaction with their suppliers.
Besides the movements and activities of the drug manufacturers, the police also have a challenge in tracking their transactions.
The criminals have adopted the use of cryptocurrency, which the authorities throughout the world find tasking to trace.
Before the dark web, illicit drug users and manufacturers had to get the supplies they needed physically.
However, in the present day, they can make purchases from any part of the world.
According to James Martin, a darknet expert from Swinburne University, drug users championed the use of the dark web for this crime.
The dark web has now grown into the most convenient marketplace for drug dealers and buyers.
Besides the safety that the buyers and sellers enjoy, the customers can access cheaper drugs on the dark web.
Furthermore, they have access to a broader range of products. The dark web is a competitive marketplace for illicit drugs.
The dark web hosts a lot more sellers and buyers of illicit drugs than any physical marketplace. Darknet users avoid the risk of physical violence.
Sergeant Finney states that different teams are coming up with strategies to deal with these darknet-based crimes.
The U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation, for instance, managed to shut down Silk Road, a key pioneer in the modern darknet market scene, in October of 2013.
However, the problem is likely to persist since the the darknet drug trade is still developing.
Dark web users continually come up with tactics for concealing their dealings. There are currently several sites that are bigger than Silk Road.
Drug Manufacturing a Dangerous Venture
Often, the police in Queensland seize drug-manufacturing chemicals, equipment and glassware. They store these items until the criminals’ court hearings are complete.
Police then collect the exhibits and hand them to forensic chemists for sorting. Some of the sorted items include beer kegs, plastic containers and kitchen dishes.
The chemists separate these items into drums and destroy them, mostly by burning.
According to Sergeant Finney, many of the manufacturers are drug addicts themselves who lack the skills to handle the chemicals they use.
This identifies their business as highly risky.
Based on Sergeant Finney’s observation, most of the chemicals emit toxic fumes that are odorless and colorless.
The drug manufacturers, thus, can die from inhaling these fumes.
They also expose themselves to symptoms such as headaches, difficulty in breathing, mental health problems as well as throat irritation.
Some of the chemicals that these manufacturers use include hydrogen chloride, solvents, iodine, methylamphetamine and phosphine.
The most commonly produced drug in the illegal labs is methylamphetamine.
Peter Culshaw, a forensic chemist from Queensland Health, reported that the drugs were of varying purity levels.
He stated that some of these drugs were of poor quality. Some of them contain acid and mercury.
The buyers of these drugs are often unaware of what they are consuming, thus exposing themselves to the risk of using toxic material.
Solutions to the Challenges
Dr. Martin proposed that Australia should adopt an evidence-based policy for drug control in the next two to three decades.
He stated that by this time, the country should have decriminalized some of the illegal drugs and given legal regulations for others.
The police and forensic chemists also apply safety measures when cleaning up to avoid further exposure to the drug-manufacturing chemicals.
However, they cannot entirely remove the toxins as the buildings absorb them during manufacturing.
Therefore, Queensland Health proposes that property owners look for cleaning experts to decontaminate the buildings.
The buildings may require up to three washes; the first with detergent, the second round with 10 percent bleach solution and the final time with more detergent.
The cleaners must ensure that there is sufficient ventilation in the buildings.
They also need protective clothing including eyewear, appropriate footwear, a respiratory mask as well as disposable overalls.
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