A NEW group of ice dealers appears to be filling the void left by the dismantling of a major drug syndicate in Wangaratta last year, police believe.
Victorian crime statistics released yesterday show drug trafficking in Wangaratta grew from 53 offences in 2013 to 738 last year, with police attributing the leap to the dismantling of the ice syndicate under Operation Juliet in September.
Wangaratta had the fifth highest crime rate based on population last year, a figure Local Area Commander Inspector Dave Ryan said was due to the drug operation.
“There were 700 charges laid against a drug trafficking syndicate across the North East,” he said.
“It’s a really good example of local investigators in a rural environment having the ability and capacity to dismantle local drug networks.
“We’ve shown it doesn’t matter where you are or what you do, if you are dealing drugs we will detect you and charge you.”
Inspector Ryan said police were now looking at those who had stepped in to replace the group.
“There will always be another crew willing to step into the breach and try to establish a new network,” he said.
“We sense there is another crew that is trying to fill the void left by that network.
“There will certainly be other drug operations running.
“The people who are engaged in that behaviour, we think we know who they are and we are actively working on them.
“If you’re engaged in that behaviour, you need to be looking over your shoulder because we’re not too far away.”
Insp Ryan said it was still “reasonably easy” to access ice in the region, in line with the rest of regional Victoria and nationwide, and said public information was needed.
“The majority of young people don’t take drugs, but many are aware of who is supplying and we need their co-operation to break these syndicates,” he said.
The crime statistics show there was a 30.3 per cent rise in recorded crime in Wangaratta from 2013 to 2014, while Wodonga’s figures increased by 17.2 per cent.
Wodonga ranked 23rd of 79 council areas for offences per 100,000 residents.