State of art drug lab catches crims

Auckland City Harbour News - - NEWS - By SA­MAN­THA SMITH

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.

Pho­tos: SA­MAN­THA SMITH

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.

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