State of art drug lab catches crims
Kiwi offenders have found that crime does pay – for the tools to catch them.
A new $250,000 Environmental Science and Research drug-screening lab, funded by money confiscated under the Proceeds of Crime Act, has opened at Auckland International Airport.
The lab aims to boost border capabilities and is equipped with technology that can analyse hundreds of unknown substances in hours. The previous process took more than six weeks to complete and staff would have to wear protective gear including a respiratory mask, gloves and overalls.
New Zealand Customs officer Tim Williams says the increased speed means drug importers can be caught a lot quicker.
Prime Minister John Key says the results of the lab speak for themselves.
‘‘In just six months, Customs had made 45 methamphetamine seizures totalling almost 36kg. That’s around 50 per cent more than the total number of seizures for the whole of last year.’’
The Government has allocated $335,000 to Customs.
‘‘We want to enhance our ability to stop drugs at the border and we want to use the money taken from criminals to catch more criminals. It’s a good circle that works through us,’’ Key says.
Bags of pseudoephedrine, clothes that have been soaked with cocaine, chopsticks filled with cocaine and ephedrine hidden in heating elements have all been intercepted.
‘‘Pretty much if you can think of it, they have already done it,’’ Williams says.
A mobile x-ray machine is also on site.
Customs officer Brendan O’Carroll says the apparatus tells so many stories.
‘‘We do hundreds of packages here and we can’t open them all, so we have to x-ray and if we see something odd we act accordingly. You find guns, weapons, drugs, you name it.’’
The equipment, along with a portable drug screening device, is expected to allow Customs staff to spend 520 more hours on frontline border work each year.
First defender: Assistant chief Customs officer Tim Williams scans an unknown powder with the hand-held drug analyser to find out what it is. Dangerous drug: The powder Tim Williams scanned turns out to be cocaine. Trial run: Prime Minister John Key trials the new first defender with the help of Tim Williams.
Checking it out: Prime Minister John Key takes a look through the new lab with Customs Minister Nicky Wagner.
X-ray unit: The New Zealand Customs Service mobile cargo inspection unit.
Another look: A package with unknown items inside is reloaded back into the mobile cargo inspection unit for a second look.