WA Police have arrested 60 people after a six-month operation targeting the use of encrypted apps to sell illicit drugs. The scale of the arrests has left senior police warning young adults of the serious criminal consequences associated with buying or selling drugs online.
Detectives from the drug and firearm squad raided 47 properties during the investigation, including 25 over the past two weeks. Overall, police have laid 213 charges and taken MDMA, methylamphetamine, cocaine, LSD and psilocybine off the streets.
According to a statement released by police, several mid-level, high-harm drug dealers were identified during the course of the operation and investigations into their drug-related activity and associates are ongoing. Police Minister Michelle Roberts commended police on the operation.
"The work of policing never stops. Pandemic or not," she said. "People who choose to order illicit drugs through these online forums, should know there’s a strong chance you will be caught. These drugs are dangerous, some of them are lethal. "I just urge young people to think long and hard about the choices they make. The decision you make today to take a drug, could impact your life for years to come."
In January, WAtoday reported dealers were turning to online forums such as Locanto or Chaos Ads and using code words to avoid law enforcement. Young people trading drugs is also commonplace on encrypted smart phone applications such as Telegram, WhatsApp and even popular social media services such as SnapChat.
Detective Inspector Gordon Fairman from the Serious and Organised Crime Division said many young people didn't appreciate the impact drug convictions would have on their future and were under a false belief they wouldn't get caught if they buy or sell drugs online via encrypted applications.
"As a law enforcement agency, we know there are people actively using the internet and encrypted messaging applications to take part in the illicit drug trade," he said. "We continue to monitor those trends and adapt our policing approach to directly counter the methods being used online. "The internet is not a safe place to buy and sell drugs.
Police across the world are actively involved in intelligence gathering and operations specifically focussed on the online drug market." Detective Inspector Fairman said many of those arrested in the raids were people aged in their 20s selling drugs. "The amounts they are selling are not necessarily high, however the end result for them in terms of criminal charges and impact on their lives is quite serious," he said.
"It would also be fair to say our search warrants came as a surprise to them, and in some cases to their parents too."
Source: WAToday - Nathan Hondros
Image: Police have arrested 60 people in WA for using encrypted apps to sell drugs.CREDIT:PAUL ROVERE