Rising heat on backyard chemists

Coffs Clarence police and Hazmat dismantled an alleged amphetamine clan lab at Toormina.
Coffs Clarence police and Hazmat dismantled an alleged amphetamine clan lab at Toormina. Leigh Jensen

THE discovery of two men allegedly manufacturing amphetamines inside a Toormina home last week has added to already alarming figures that 70% of all clan labs are housed in suburban streets.

Police shut down 703 clan labs across the country last year, in NSW alone seizing 158 kilograms of methamphetamine valued at $200 million.

The raid and alleged find inside the Sawtell Rd home on Friday led to the evacuation of eight surrounding homes as Hazmat rendered the scene safe and State Crime Command Chemical Operations Unit officers later investigated the alleged substance being manufactured.

This latest raid follows an alleged clan lab discovery at a Boambee caravan park earlier this year.

With strong suspicions there are many more backyard chemists at work in local suburban streets, Coffs Clarence police have called for public assistance to stem local supplies of speed, ice and ecstasy.

"What these people are doing in manufacturing drugs in suburban streets is highly dangerous not just to themselves, but to people in the neighbouring premises," Acting Crime Manager, Senior Sergeant Peter O'Reilly said.

"These men were allegedly manufacturing drugs using highly volatile substances in the pursuit of greed, drugs and money creating the potential for an explosion or fire resulting in the lost of life.

In 2010, a major police drug investigation uncovered an industrial-grade operation on a property north of Corindi, which turned out to be NSW's largest ever known paramethoxymethylamphetamine drug lab.

That discovery added proof to suspicions criminal gangs and syndicates are operating "commercial" size operations on the Coffs Coast.

Speaking about the recent rise in amphetamine drug lab detections in NSW, Detective Superintendent Nick Bingham of the State Drug Squad said police are concerned about the supply of pseudoephedrine, despite strict laws stopping the mass sale of cold and flu medications in chemists and pharmacies.

Det. Supt. Bingham said while over the counter licence checks had impacted on supply, drug manufacturers were looking offshore and importing a substance known as ContacNT, a pseudoephedrine-based cold and flu preparation made in China for the Asian market.

"It has a much higher dose of pseudo than what is manufactured here and is relatively simple to extract for preparation,'' Supt. Bingham said.

Over the past year Customs has seized an estimated 800 kilograms of ContacNT, while the NSW Drug Squad seized 650 kilograms last December.

To help Coffs Clarence police and the State Crime Command stop the manufacture of amphetamines in your neighbourhood report any suspicious behaviour or odours to Crimestoppers on 1800 333 000.

Topics:  amphetamines coffs clarence police

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