A record number of people were arrested for drug offences and police made a record number of drug seizures last year, according to the latest figures on Australia's drug scene.
The Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission released its Illicit Drug Data Report on Thursday, covering the 2014–15 financial year. The ACIC reports that Australian law enforcement agencies made "105,862 national illicit drug seizures, weighing a total of 23.5 tonnes, with a record 133,926 national illicit drug arrests." The number of seizures has almost doubled since 2005, up 92 percent from 55,219 seizures in that year.
"The weight of illicit drugs seized nationally has increased 263.1 per cent over the last decade, with 23.5 tonnes of illicit drugs seized nationally in 2014–15, the third highest weight on record," the ACIC report stated.
"The number of national illicit drug arrests has increased 70.5 per cent over the last decade, from 78,533 in 2005–06 to a record 133,926 in 2014–15. The number of national illicit drug arrests increased 19.5 per cent, from 112,049 in 2013–14 to a record 133,926 in 2014–15."
Cannabis was once more the most prominent drug among the figures, accounting for 56 percent of both arrests and total seizures, and 25.5 percent of seizures by weight. Amphetamine-type stimulants were 26.5 percent of arrests and 31 percent of total seizures, while 53.6 percent of seizures by weight were of amphetamines.
Heroin, cocaine and other drugs ranked well down the list. Just 2.4 percent of arrests were for heroin, and 1.6 percent for cocaine. Heroin arrests were at their lowest in a decade, while cocaine arrests -- while relatively low compared to other drugs -- were at their highest in the last 10 years. Seizures of cocaine, again relatively low, are at a record high.
"The report confirms there remains a very strong appetite for illegal drugs in Australia and whilst that appetite remains, sophisticated criminal syndicates will seek to meet that demand. Curbing demand is an ongoing challenge," justice minister Michael Keenan said at a media conference to launch the report.
For the first time, the report includes data from waste water collection, which is used as a measure of the quantity of drugs people are actually consuming.
"This data tells us really what we know anecdotally, that methamphetamine use has been increasing in the Australian community since 2009 and we know that waste water analysis is one of the most accurate measures of illegal drug use," Keenan said.
"This mode of detection can help police to do their jobs, it can lead them to illegal clandestine labs, it will help us identify which drugs are being supplied and which drugs are increasing or decreasing in usage."
The number of drug laboratory detections has also increased, with 667 detections in 2014-15. The ACIC said the majority were in residential areas, while a growing number were in public places, commercial and industrial locations, and rural areas.
The CEO of the ACIC, Chris Dawson, outlined how Australian officials policed importation of drugs through monitoring borders and shipments.
"The key embarkation points from countries who are routing drugs through continues to be very strongly prominent through South-East Asia, through China, Hong Kong, some West African nations and indeed through some European countries as well," he said.
"So the Australian criminal intelligence Commission does work closely with both our national, state, territory law enforcement bodies, and also increasingly with our international law enforcement bodies as well."
To read the full report, click here.