Last year we wrote about how a police department purchased over 29 handheld narcotics analyzers to help fight the drug epidemic in Western Australia. This week, on the other side of Australia, a handheld narcotics analyzer was used to identify over $100 million worth of crystal methamphetamine (also known as ‘ice’) stored in boxes, in a van, that just happened to crash into a couple police vehicles.
This drug bust was probably one of the easiest for any police force. And it was all caught on video. A Sydney news station reported that Australian authorities uncovered the stash of meth after an alleged criminal’s drug-filled van crashed into an officer’s car outside a police station. They are jokingly referring to the incident as a drive-through drug bust.
The drug epidemic is something the police of Australia take seriously, of course. According to Australia’s 2018 annual overdose report:
Deaths involving amphetamines are increasing steadily, likely driven by crystal methamphetamine or ‘ice,’ a highly potent form of amphetamine….
- Between 2002-06, there were 298 deaths involving amphetamines, this rose to 1,237 for 2012-16
On the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare website, it notes that The National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre (NDARC) reported that in 2017 there were 93 amphetamine-induced deaths among Australians aged 15–64 years—a rate of 0.6 per 100,000 people (Chrzanowska et al. 2019).
Because of their dedication to fighting the illicit drug problem, Sydney’s police force joined the many other police departments that are currently using narcotics analyzers in the field. These tools utilize Raman spectroscopy, a well-established analytical technique. These instruments are used in the field to identify key drugs of abuse like Methamphetamine and other threats such as fentanyl, numerous fentanyl compounds including carfentanil, common street fentanyl analogs, pharmaceutical variants as well as common cutting agents and precursors, NPP and ANPP.
In the video, you can see that the police officers are wisely wearing gloves while they go through the van’s boxes. As an extra precaution, these handheld narcotics analyzers can test unknown substances without requiring that the substances be removed from packaging, thereby avoiding direct contact with the substance.
The misuse of methamphetamine is an extremely serious problem in the United States as well. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, in some areas of the country, it poses an even greater threat than opioids, and it is the drug that most contributes to violent crime:
An estimated 964,000 people aged 12 or older (about 0.4 percent of the population) had a methamphetamine use disorder in 2017—that is, they reported clinically significant impairment, including health problems, disability, and failure to meet responsibilities at work, school, or home as a result of their drug use. This number is significantly higher than the 684,000 people who reported having methamphetamine use disorder in 2016.
Beyond its devastating effects on individual health, methamphetamine misuse threatens whole communities, causing new waves of crime, unemployment, child neglect or abuse, and other social ills. … more than 70 percent of local law enforcement agencies from the pacific and west central regions of the US report methamphetamine as the greatest drug threat in their area…. Nationwide, overdose deaths from the category of drugs that includes methamphetamine increased by 7.5 times between 2007 and 2017. About 15 percent of all drug overdose deaths involved the methamphetamine category in 2017
We all can’t rely on criminals with bad driving skills to help fight the drug epidemic, but at least we have technology available – whether it’s in Australia, the U.S., or other places around that world – that will help us identify the dangerous cargo that is transported across our borders, and down our local streets.
- Watch the Australian video
- Visit our website titled Solutions for Law Enforcement: Narcotics, Chemical and Radiation Threats.