Major police operation hits P industry

By Amy McGillivray

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Police are confident they have seriously disrupted the supply of P in the Western Bay after a major four-month drug operation.

Detective Senior Sergeant Lindsay Pilbrow told the Bay of Plenty Times Weekend the 18 arrests and two clandestine labs found during Operation Detroit would have a lasting effect.

"This was a significant organised crime group linked to the gangs in our district," he said.

"What we've done here is take out a key group involved in the manufacture and supply of methamphetamine in the Western Bay and Bay of Plenty. That's going to have a significant effect on availability."

The positive impact of such a major drug raid was easy to see, Mr Pilbrow said.

"It's having an effect. We know it is. We can see it ... Just from the work we do, the people we're in contact with and people we're dealing with in the criminal fraternity. The availability, it just shuts off, we can hear it.

"Drugs are linked to other crimes as well so often we see a drop in other crimes in the community."

The number of arrests made for street-level possession also tended to drop after major operations as it was harder to get hold of methamphetamine.

"Drugs have a big ripple across the whole community," Mr Pilbrow said.

Police last week raided and closed down a suspected P-lab in Mountain Rd, Oropi, and another on Park Rd in Katikati, which exploded after it was allegedly set alight as police searched the property.

"We take away their cooks, their experts in production and you take away their labs and they have to start all over again," Mr Pilbrow said.

"There's always going to be a demand but if you chop the heads off the groups that are making it and we take away the material they need to make it, it just becomes very, very difficult."

It was too early to say exactly how much methamphetamine the two suspected labs could have produced but the large amount of precursor materials found would have created millions of dollars worth of drugs, he said. A kilogram of methamphetamine has a street value of about $1 million.

The Drug Harm Index prepared for the NZ police in 2008 put the cost of the social harm of stimulant drugs, such as methamphetamine, at $403,470 per kilogram which meant Operation Detroit could have prevented more than $1 million worth of harm.

"It's quite a sweet victory for us but it's ongoing. We're not going to stop with these guys ..." Mr Pilbrow said.

Director of Tauranga's Hanmer Clinic, David Benton, said he supported anything police could do to get rid of methamphetamine. About 25 people had gone through the clinic's programme to deal with a stimulant dependence this year.

"[Methamphetamine is] fast-acting, some people can take it or leave it ... but for those who become dependant on it it becomes a highly destructive drug in a short period of time."

An indication of the destructive nature of the drug was that people often reached crisis point and sought treatment for their addiction after two or three years on methamphetamine compared to the 20 or 30 years often seen with alcoholics, he said.

Mr Benton said occasionally police activity caused an increase in the number of people seeking help.

"This can be a positive outcome if people are motivated to look at and address their addiction.

"If there's a spike in people presenting for treatment as a result of police activity it's usually because people are facing criminal charges. The second aspect is that in fact that action brings them to a screeching halt and they realise they have to do something about their position."

- Bay of Plenty Times

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