THE use of the drug ice has exploded on the Border in the past two years.
Addiction to the drug is closely linked to the region’s crime and it has changed the nature of how police tackle crime prevention on the frontline.
The flow of ice began as a trickle, imported into the country’s major cities in the late 1990s from China, Hong Kong, Japan, The Philippines, South Korea and Taiwan.
Then its production started to seep into other areas. A 2006 NSW parliamentary report said the first ice laboratory was found in Queensland in February 2002 and the Australian Crime Commission predicted it would become a drug of choice.
Since then, the trade and production of ice has roared into regional centres.
Wodonga police say they’ve had a “massive” jump in the detection of the drug in the past two years and particularly in the past 12 months.
They say it’s being imported from Melbourne and Sydney but they’ve had at least one case where a Wodonga man was trying to make a version of the drug.
Frontline police say they now have to deal with people who are more volatile and a small percentage of addicts get what police call “Superman syndrome”, where the drug-affected believe they are stronger and don’t feel pain.
Detectives are cleaning up the aftermath of crime that is increasingly linked to ice, particularly burglaries where users break in to steal items that are on-sold to fund their drug habit.
The Divisional Tasking Unit, a small crew of officers tasked to respond to changes in crime, find they’re always investigating trafficking and much of that is ice-related.
Acting Insp Barry McIntosh said many country towns missed the heroin epidemic of the 1980s and ice was now the drug of choice.
Former NSW Police Commissioner Ken Moroney told the ABC in 2006 the drug had the potential to destroy generations. He said in his four decades as a policeman he had never seen a greater scourge on the community in terms of the physical and mental manifestations of the drug he described as “absolutely horrific”.
Insp McIntosh said there was no doubting the problems ice caused.
“We are seeing more and more young people, teenagers, using ice now that it may affect the rest of their lives,” he said.
And police have heard anecdotal evidence that not even users want to be on it.
“Ice users hate it. Hate it with a passion. They say ‘I want to get off it, I want to get off it, it’s the worst drug ever’,” one said.
In 2005-06 police in regional Victoria were paid a visit by an Hawaiian drug squad officer.
It was at a time when ice in Hawaii was rampant and years before a US National Drug Intelligence Centre last year labelled it as “the greatest drug threat to the country”.
The officer reportedly told his Victorian counterparts the worst thing they could do was let ice come into Australia.
But now it is here. Raids can slow the trade but like the Greek mythological creature Hydra, where for each head cut off two more grew in its place, there’s always a dealer to take
In a battle with no end in sight, a police officer who has investigated the drug trade in Wodonga for many years said he gets satisfaction from two things.
The first was stopping the supply and distribution for a while. The second, helping users get off the drug.
“Each one is a win,” he said.