Seizure of drugs in postal sorting centres on the increase
Increase in cannabis, cocaine, heroin seizures shows role of internet in narcotics trade
While the number of seizures has jumped, the average size has shrunk, indicating that most postal deliveries are for personal use only
The number of seizures of cocaine, heroin and other drugs in postal sorting centres has been growing every year since 2015, a sign of the increasing role of the internet in the illicit narcotics trade.
However, the vast majority were not investigated or prosecuted because the amounts involved were deemed to be too small. In 2015, 705 seizures were made, but this rose every year, standing at 1,149 last year.
Seizures of cannabis, cocaine and heroin have all increased significantly. However, the most dramatic rise is seen for amphetamines, ecstasy and “head-shop drugs”, which were banned in Ireland in 2010.
Heroin and cocaine
In 2015, there were only 50 of the latter seizures, but this rose seven-fold to 368 last year. While the number of seizures has jumped, the average size has shrunk, indicating that most postal deliveries are for personal use only.
Last year, the average size of heroin and cocaine seizures was 6.36 grams, and 143 grams for cannabis and 471 grams for amphetamines, ecstasy etc. Sales websites are appearing on the dark web faster than they are being removed.
Gardaí believe the higher quality of drugs online, and ever more sophisticated privacy methods, are causing increasing numbers of people to buy online rather than from local dealers.
Websites are also becoming increasingly sophisticated. Many allow users to leave reviews for dealers, similar to Amazon or eBay. Crypto-currencies are used to pay, conceal the identities of buyers and sellers.
Drugs have been found in coffee jars, or sealed DVD cases. Revenue is the lead agency responsible for detecting postal drug-smuggling. It has agents at all major postal centres and uses sniffer dogs and X-ray machines.
Officers employ “risk profiling” techniques which involve “the analysis of behaviour and trends in order to identify and evaluate risk and predict outcomes”, a Revenue spokeswoman said.
If a small amount is found, Revenue writes to the intended recipient, inviting them to be present when the package is officially examined. Few respond. The packages are then destroyed, and there is no further investigation.
If a larger quantity is found, a garda posing as a postman will deliver the package and ask the recipient to sign for it. A Garda raid follows a few minutes later. Sometimes, a surveillance operation is mounted to trace accomplices.