A crack squad of police is being set up to disrupt the supply of drugs and target gun crime in northern New South Wales.
The announcement comes as police today claimed to have removed more than $14 million worth of cannabis from the region as part of the cannabis eradication program, which finished yesterday.
The new investigative team – which includes a sergeant and six constables – will be known as the Northern Region Enforcement Squad, and will begin operations next month.
The team will work with the State Crime Command’s Drug and Firearms Squad on investigations into drug supply, firearms offences, and property crime, as well as any criminal syndicates operating in the area.
Northern Region Operations Tactician, Detective Chief Inspector David Waddell, said Northern RES’ primary focus would be supporting police districts by targeting large-scale, mid-level, and serial crimes impacting their communities.
‘We have long seen the success of the RES-model in the metropolitan areas, and I believe this team is not only an asset for Northern Region police, but also a win for our community,’ Det Chief Insp Waddell said.
‘The squad will act as a conduit between State Crime Command, particularly the Drug and Firearms Squad, and the Police Districts, focusing on having the highest impact on the crime types which most effect the everyday lives of residents and businesses.
‘There will also be an emphasis on assisting Rural Crime Investigators, where groups or syndicates are involved in crime that impact on the function of the pastoral, agricultural, and aquaculture industries.
‘We will continue to put the community we serve first, and RES is an addition resource that will help provide frontline police more time to focus on other crimes,” Det Chief Insp Waddell said.
Following the conclusion of the Drug and Firearms Squad’s annual Cannabis Eradication Program (CEP), which targets outdoor cultivation of cannabis, Northern RES will lead follow-up investigations into cannabis cultivation and supply, illicit drug supply, and associated criminal activities in the region.
Police today are holding a media conference at a secret location to show off the more than 7,200 plants seized during raids in recent weeks.
This includes almost 2500 plants seized in Richmond Police District between 20 and 24 November 2017, more than 2100 plants seized in Mid North Coast Police District between 11 and 15 December 2017, almost 700 plants seized in Tweed/Byron Police District between 4 and 8 February 2018, and 1893 plants seized in Coffs/Clarence Police District between 19 and 22 February 2018.
Many of the crops were growing in dense bushland, and often located on Crown Land. Crop sizes ranged from just a few plants to several hundred.
Officers also seized 3.3kg of cannabis head and five firearms.
In total, 29 people were served Court Attendance Notices for various drug and firearms offences.
Drug and Firearms Squad Commander, Detective Superintendent Peter McErlain, said the investigation doesn’t just end at the seizure of plants.
‘Each year, the CEP team gather information and various intelligence about the supply of cannabis and other illicit drugs for further investigation, which will be shared with Northern RES,’ Det Supt McErlain said.
‘The obvious priority is to target the supply chain and associated criminal enterprises, or any activity that threatens the safety of the community.
‘We have seen the devastating impact ‘ice’ has had on remote and rural communities, and we will be working closely with all RES’ and local police on targeted activities to reduce availability across the state.
‘This includes the importation of ice and its precursors, manufacture in clandestine laboratories, and the supply of this poison at any level,’ Det Supt McErlain said.
The Northern RES will be based at the Coffs-Clarence Police District, with the capacity to work throughout major hubs and smaller towns across Northern NSW.
It is one of three regional squads announced as part of the re-engineering process, reinforcing NSW Police Force’s commitment to providing specialist resources to regional areas.
The Western RES has two units based at Dubbo and Tamworth, and the Southern RES is based at Wagga Wagga.