Data sources & Explanatory notes

The Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission Illicit Drug Data Report (IDDR) is the only report of its type in Australia, providing governments, law enforcement agencies and interested stakeholders with a national picture of the illicit drug market. The IDDR presents data from a variety of sources and provides an important evidence base to assess current and future illicit drug trends, offers a brief analysis of those trends and assists decision- makers in the development of strategies to combat the threat posed by illicit drugs.

Variation exists in drug markets, both internationally and domestically, within and between states and territories and over time. No single data set provides a national picture of Australian illicit drug markets. It is only through the layering of multiple available data—both current and historical—that we are able to enhance our understanding of illicit drug markets in Australia.

The Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission collects data annually from all state and territory police services, the Australian Federal Police, the Department of Home Affairs, forensic laboratories and research centres. The illicit drug data collected and presented in the Illicit Drug Data Report 2016–17 includes:

  • arrest
  • detection
  • seizure
  • purity
  • profiling
  • price.

The purpose of the report is to provide statistics and analysis to assist decision-makers in developing illicit drug supply, demand and harm reduction strategies. The data also assists the Australian Government to meet national and international reporting obligations.

The Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission applies the National Illicit Drug Reporting Format (NIDRF) to standardise the arrest, seizure and purity data received from police services and contributing forensic organisations. The Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission has recently undertaken an enhancement of the NIDRF system to further develop its capability, with the enhanced NIDRF system used to process data for the 2016‑17 report.

Acknowledgements

The IDDR contains data and analysis provided by federal, state and territory police, as well as forensic laboratories and the Department of Immigration and Border Protection (now Department of Home Affairs). These agencies provide significant contributions to each report and their expertise and experience, along with their continued support, have been invaluable to the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission.

Key contributors to the 2016–17 report are listed below:

  • Australian Border Force
  • Australian Federal Police
  • Australian Federal Police, ACT Policing
  • Australian Federal Police, Forensic Drug Intelligence
  • Australian Institute of Criminology, Drug Use Monitoring in Australia Program
  • ChemCentre
  • Department of Home Affairs
  • Forensic Science Service Tasmania
  • Forensic Science South Australia
  • National Wastewater Drug Monitoring Program
  • New South Wales Ministry of Health, Health System Information and Performance Reporting
  • New South Wales Police Force
  • Northern Territory Police
  • NSW Forensic & Analytical Science Service
  • Queensland Health and Forensic Scientific Services
  • Queensland Police Service
  • South Australia Police
  • Tasmania Police
  • Victoria Police
  • Western Australia Police Force.

Counting methodology

The following methodology was used to develop a count of arrests by drug type:

  • where a person has been charged with multiple consumer or provider offences for a particular type of drug, that person is counted once only as a consumer or provider of that drug
  • where consumer or provider charges for a particular drug type have been laid, the provider charge takes precedence and the person is counted only as a provider of that drug
  • a person who has been charged in relation to multiple drug types is counted as a consumer or provider for each drug type
  • a person is counted on each separate occasion that they are charged.

Data sources

Arrest and seizure data

The following agencies provided arrest and seizure data:

  • Australian Federal Police (AFP)
  • Australian Federal Police, ACT Policing
  • New South Wales Police Force
  • Northern Territory Police
  • Queensland Police Service
  • South Australia Police
  • Tasmania Police
  • Victoria Police
  • Western Australia Police Force.

Drug purity data

The following agencies and organisations provided drug purity data:

  • Australian Federal Police
  • Australian Federal Police, ACT Policing
  • ChemCentre Western Australia
  • Forensic Science SA
  • Forensic Science Service Tasmania
  • Health System Information and Performance Reporting, New South Wales Ministry of Health. Sample analysis conducted by NSW Forensic & Analytical Science Service
  • Queensland Health Forensic and Scientific Services
  • Victoria Police.

The purity figures reflect seizures of that drug type that have been analysed at a forensic laboratory. The time between the date of seizure by police and the date of receipt at laboratories can vary from a few days to several months and, in isolated cases, years. Purity figures reflect seizures analysed during the respective reporting period, not necessarily all seizures made during that period.

From 2017, the NSW Forensic & Analytical Science Service only tests for purity levels on samples submitted from seizures of a commercial quantity or greater.

South Australia tests for purity levels on cases when the total weight of drug–containing material within a case is >5 grams. All samples with total weight >2 gram are sent for quantitation (if none are >2 gram then the largest sample were sent for quantitation). When the total weight of drug–containing material within a case is >100 grams, all samples regardless of their total weight are sent for quantitation.

Tasmania Police do not conduct purity determinations on exhibits unless it is specifically requested by the investigator and he/she has a good reason for doing so. Tasmania Police also do not conduct purity determinations on less than 0.5 grams. Legislation in Tasmania does not take into account the purity of the exhibit, so there are very few instances where purity determinations are of great value and hence not worth the significant effort required to determine the purity.

Drug seizures are not routinely tested for purity in the Northern Territory, unless specifically requested. The Misuse of Drugs Act (NT) provides for all of the preparation or mixture to be deemed as if all of the substance (preparation or mixture) is comprised of the dangerous drug found, irrespective of purity.

ACT Policing only tests for purity on seizures that are larger than the trafficable amount. All samples lodged by ACT Policing with the ACT Government Analytical Laboratory are tested, but not all are tested for purity. A legislative change in the ACT in 2014 to introduce ‘mixed weight’ provisions has limited the number of seizures which have purity data attached.

Limitations of the data

Overview

Despite limitations in the current data set, the ACIC’s IDDR provides the best collection of arrest and seizure statistics available in Australia. The NIDRF data processing system has enabled the ACIC to improve statistical quality and reliability.

Datasets

Since the development and implementation of the NIDRF processing system, limitations with the administrative datasets used to compile the statistics have decreased. The data may be impacted by the following factors:

  • a lack of uniformity across all states and territories in the recording and storing of data on illicit drug arrests and seizures
  • ongoing problems with quality control, resulting in the absence of essential information from some records
  • differences in applying a uniform counting and data extraction methodology across all jurisdictions
  • differences in definitions of consumer and provider offences across and within jurisdictions over time
  • differences in the way drugs and offences may be coded and/or insufficient drug identification
  • an inability to identify seizures resulting from joint operations, for example, those involving the AFP and a state or territory agency.

Drug identification and coding

Not all illicit drugs seized by law enforcement are scientifically analysed to establish the precise nature of the drug. In some cases, only seizures of a predetermined weight or those that are the subject of a ‘not guilty’ plea are analysed. In some instances, an initial field test may be carried out to provide an indication as to the seized drug, but all other seizures are recorded at the discretion of the investigating officer and without further qualification.

Historically, a number of jurisdictional data systems did not differentiate between amphetamines and 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA). This has restricted the ACIC’s ability to monitor and report on national trends in regards to seizures and arrests of specific amphetamine-type stimulant (ATS) drug types. Similar problems continue to exist with the range of drugs recorded as ‘other drugs’. Monitoring and reporting on national trends of these drugs is therefore limited.

Recording and storage methods

The lack of consistency between law enforcement agencies in recording illicit drug arrests and seizures presents difficulties when data are aggregated and compared. Disparities exist in the level of detail recorded for each offence, the methods used to quantify the seizures, the way offence and seizure data are extracted, and the way counting rules and extraction programs are applied.

Consumers and providers

Offenders are classified as consumers or providers in order to differentiate between people who have been apprehended for trading in, as opposed to using, illicit drugs. Those charged with supply-type offences (importation, trafficking, selling, cultivation and manufacture) are classified providers. Those charged with user-type offences (processing or administering drugs for their own use) are classified as consumers.

In some cases, the jurisdictions allocate consumer and provider codes, and in others, the ACIC applies the codes based on the information on the type of offence committed. Further, there are some differences in the methodologies jurisdictions use for applying consumer and provider codes. In some states and territories, the quantity of the drug involved determines whether an offence is regarded as a consumer or a provider offence. Additionally, the threshold quantity that determines whether a person is to be charged as a provider varies over time, both within and between states and territories.

Offender data supplied may exclude law enforcement actions that are the subject of ongoing investigations.

Detection data

Border detection data supplied may exclude detections that are the subject of ongoing investigations.

Seizure data

The seizure data presented includes only those seizures for which a valid drug weight was recorded. Consequently, it undercounts both the number of seizures and the amount of drug seized for all drug types. Seizure data for ATS, cannabis and other drugs are most likely to be affected by the variety of measurement methods.

Seizure data supplied may exclude seizures that are the subject of ongoing investigations.

Jurisdictional issues

The comparability of law enforcement data across states and territories is problematic. Figures reported in the IDDR may differ from those reported in other publications. Reasons for this include the date of extraction and the counting rules applied. For the information of agencies and individuals wishing to interpret the data, specific issues regarding jurisdictional data have been identified by the ACIC and the relevant jurisdiction. These issues have been summarised and are represented below.

Australian Capital Territory

ACT Policing provided the ACIC with seizure and offender data. ACT Policing provided the purity data for inclusion in this report from analysis results provided by the ACT Government Analytical Laboratory.

Data is comparable with figures in the IDDR from 2002–03 onwards.

Legislative changes in the ACT in 2014 have changed the trafficable quantities of heroin, methylamphetamine, cocaine and MDMA (ecstasy) and their associated substances to better target providers rather than consumers. These changes have also impacted purity analysis, with the introduction of ‘mixed weight’ provisions. This has limited the number of seizures which have purity data attached.

As reported by ACT Policing, Simple Cannabis Offence Notices (SCONs) data may not be a true representation of the number of SCONs issued for the period as offenders may be subsequently summonsed for non-payment and will therefore be included in consumer and provider arrests data.

Australian Federal Police

The AFP provided national offender, seizure and purity data. This data was compiled in conjunction with the AFP’s Forensic Drug Intelligence team. Totals may differ from those published earlier in the AFP Annual Report 2016‑17 due to the data extraction being based on more recent data and on the AFP using different drug- grouping categories to the ACIC.

Department of Home Affairs

Detections of illicit drugs by the former Department of Immigration and Border Protection (now Department of Home Affairs) are handed to the AFP for investigation purposes, safe storage and destruction. Border detections are recorded on ‘DrugLab’, which is updated with confirmed seizure weight data from the AFP. At present, there is no provision for an automatic update of accurate weights to DrugLab. Data relating to the same border detections held by the AFP and DrugLab will differ slightly. This is because only unconfirmed seizure weights are initially recorded. Home Affairs detection figures are subject to change and reflect available data at time of extraction. As such, figures published in the IDDR may differ from those published in other reports, including Home Affairs Annual Reports.

For operational reasons, the format of data presented in the IDDR may vary from year to year.

From 2010–11, Home Affairs was unable to provide importation data to populate country of embarkation charts for inclusion in the report. From 2011–12, dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) and steroid border detection data are reported as a combined figure. From 2012–13, Home Affairs have provided benzodiazepine and opiate statistics which only represent a component of the larger pharmaceuticals category. Home Affairs advised that statistics relating to cannabis in 2014–15 were impacted by a number of food products containing hemp and cannabis seeds.

New South Wales

The New South Wales Police Force provided the ACIC with offender and seizure data. The New South Wales Ministry of Health, Health System Information and Performance Reporting section provided the drug purity data, with the sample analysis conducted by NSW Forensic & Analytical Science Service.

From 2017, New South Wales Forensic & Analytical Science Service (FASS) have made changes to their processes in response to legislative changes to the Drugs Misuse and Trafficking Act—amendment 2016. New South Wales Police Force is now able to take a subsample of a seizure and therefore not all seizures are sent to FASS for analysis. Around 50.0 per cent of samples are sent to FASS and they may or may not be weighted by New South Wales Police Force. The subsamples analysed by FASS are weighted, but purity tests will only be carried out on samples related to a commercial quantity or greater. This will impact the data provided for the Illicit Drug Data Report and caution should be exercised in comparing data.

Prior to 2005–06, New South Wales Police Force data was extracted directly from the mainframe recording system (COPS). Since 2005–06, data has been extracted from COPS using a data warehousing application ‘Enterprise Data Warehouse’. Tests to verify the process of data extraction have been undertaken and the New South Wales Police Force is confident that the retrieval process is comparable with previous extracts from COPS.

To improve data quality, in 2015–16 the New South Wales Police Force changed the way in which pharmaceutical drugs are coded. As a result, caution should be exercised in comparing data across the reporting periods.

Northern Territory

Northern Territory Police provided the ACIC with seizure and offender data. Northern Territory Forensic Laboratory was unable to provide purity data for this report.

Data collection methods in the Northern Territory have been audited since the 2010–11 report. The change in data collection methodology has resulted in the provision of more detailed and accurate data.

Seizure data for the Northern Territory relate to suspected drug type only. The number of Drug Infringement Notices (DINs) may differ to those extracted from the Integrated Justice Information System.

Kava seizures in the Northern Territory may constitute a significant proportion of the number and weight of other and unknown NEC seizures within a given reporting period.

In the Northern Territory, it is often difficult to obtain accurate date of birth and address details from offenders; however, this lack of detail does not invalidate the data.

Queensland

The Queensland Police Service provided the ACIC with offender and seizure data. Queensland Health Forensic and Scientific Services provided purity data.

South Australia

South Australia Police provided the ACIC with offender and seizure data. Forensic Science South Australia provided the purity data.

From 2015–16, offender data provided by South Australia Police includes data for offenders participating in its Drug Diversion Program (excluding diversion records not related to a drug seizure). As a result, caution should be exercised in comparing data from previous reporting periods.

Tasmania

Tasmania Police provided the ACIC with offender and seizure data. Forensic Science Service Tasmania provided the purity data.

It is important to note that the reported figures may differ from those reported in the Tasmania Police Annual Report and other publications due to the differing counting rules applied.

Victoria

Victoria Police provided the ACIC with offender, seizure and drug quantities data from Law Enforcement Assistance Program (LEAP).

Drug purity data was provided by Victoria Police Forensics Department. Drug quantities and weights reported are estimates only and are not validated by forensic analysis.

In 2004–05, Victoria Police rewrote its data extraction program and improved the data quality checks. Further data quality processes have been implemented to improve the data.

The Victorian clandestine laboratory detections figure was taken from the record of attendances by forensic analysts at suspected laboratories and validated by the Clandestine Laboratory Squad.

Western Australia

Western Australia Police provided the ACIC with seizure and offender data. ChemCentre provided the purity data.

Western Australia Police introduced a new incident recording system in 2002–03, which changed the method for recording drug seizures. For this reason, care should be exercised when comparing data across years.

Data is subject to change and reflects the available data at time of extraction. Totals reported in the IDDR may differ from those published in other reports, including the Western Australia Police Annual Report and other publications.

Legislation changes for cannabis offences in Western Australia took effect from 1 August 2011 following amendments to the Misuse of Drugs Act. The Cannabis Infringement Notice (CIN) was replaced by a Cannabis Intervention Requirement (CIR) which changes the way police should respond when dealing with a person in possession of cannabis. From 1 August 2011, any person who does not have a criminal history and is found to have 10 grams or less of cannabis will be offered 28 days to complete a Cannabis Intervention Session after which no charges will follow. People with previous cannabis-related convictions are ineligible for this option. Participation in a Cannabis Intervention Session is offered once to adult offenders, but twice to juveniles aged between 14 and 17 years, so that subsequent offending would result in charges being brought directly.

Explanatory notes

The following explanatory notes relate to terms used in the IDDR.

Amphetamine-type stimulants (ATS)

Unless otherwise specified, ‘amphetamine-type stimulants’ (ATS) include amphetamine, methylamphetamine and phenethylamines.

Arrest

‘Arrest’ incorporates recorded law enforcement action against a person for suspected unlawful involvement in illicit drugs. It incorporates enforcement action by way of arrest and charge, summons, diversion program, cannabis expiation notice (South Australia), simple cannabis offence notice (Australian Capital Territory), drug infringement notice (Northern Territory), notice to appear (Queensland) and cannabis intervention requirement (Western Australia). Some charges may have been subsequently dropped or the defendant may have been found not guilty.

Cannabis

‘Cannabis’ includes cannabis plant, leaf, resin, oil, seed and all other forms.

Categories for clandestine laboratories

Since 2011–12, jurisdictions have been asked to distinguish detected clandestine laboratories into the following four categories, taken from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime Annual Report Questionnaire that is used to inform the World Drug Report.

Addict-based labs (kitchen labs). Only basic equipment and simple procedures are used. Typically, those operating in such laboratories have a limited or non-existent knowledge of chemistry and simply follow instructions. Usually, there are no significant stores of precursors and the amount of drugs or other substances manufactured is for personal use. A typical manufacture cycle for ATS would yield less than 50 grams of the substance.

Other small scale labs. People operating in these laboratories have advanced chemical knowledge. More complex amphetamine-type stimulants may be manufactured. Laboratories may be of similar size to ‘addict-based labs’ but frequently employ non- improvised equipment. They may also include experimental laboratories. The amount manufactured is typically for personal use or for a limited number of close associates. Typical manufacture cycle for ATS would yield less than 500 grams of the substance.

Medium sized labs. Use commercially available standard equipment and glassware (in some cases, custom-made equipment). They are not very mobile, making it possible to recover precursor chemicals and equipment in many cases (production estimates are the most viable and reliable). The amount manufactured at such sites is primarily for illicit economic gain. A typical manufacture cycle for ATS would yield between 0.5 to 50 kilograms.

Industrial scale labs. Laboratories use oversized equipment and glassware that is either custom-made or purchased from industrial processing sources. Such industrial operations produce significant amounts of ATS in very short periods of time, only limited by access to precursors, reagents and consumables in adequate quantities and the logistics and manpower to handle large amounts of drugs or chemicals and process them into the next step. A typical manufacture cycle for ATS would yield 50 kilograms or more.

Cocaine

‘Cocaine’ includes cocaine, coca leaf and coca paste.

Detection

In the context of the border environment, the term ‘detection’ refers to the identification of illicit drugs by the Department of Home Affairs.

Embarkation point

‘Embarkation point’ describes the origin of the transport stage of importations. Embarkation is affected by air and sea transport connection patterns and the location of transport hubs, and may not necessarily reflect the true origin of drugs.

Australia may appear as an embarkation country due to an export-detection. In some instances, it may relate to detections on air passengers travelling domestically on an international flight.

Hallucinogens

‘Hallucinogens’ includes tryptamines such as lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) and psilocybin- containing mushrooms.

Heroin and other opioids

‘Heroin and other opioids’ include opioid analgesics such as heroin, methadone and pethidine and opiate analgesics including codeine, morphine and opium.

Other drugs

‘Other drugs’ include anabolic agents and selected hormones, tryptamines, anaesthetics, pharmaceuticals and drugs not elsewhere classified. Current reporting processes do not enable detailed identification of these drugs.

Phenethylamines

Phenethylamines include 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA, commonly known as ‘ecstasy’), 3,4-methylenedioxyethylamphetamine (MDEA), 3,4-methylenedioxyamphetamine (MDA), dimethoxyamphetamine (DMA) and paramethoxyamphetamine (PMA).

Seizure

‘Seizure’ is the confiscation by a law enforcement agency of a quantity of an illicit drug or a regulated drug being used or possessed unlawfully, whether or not an arrest is made in conjunction with that confiscation.

The amount of drug seized may be recorded by weight, volume or as a unit count—for example, number of tablets, plants or bags. The method of estimating the amount of drug seized varies between and within jurisdictions. For example, seizures of ATS in tablet form may be weighed or counted.

Steroids

‘Steroids’ include anabolic and androgenic steroids such as testosterone and nandrolone.

Abbreviations

ACIC
Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission
ACT
Australian Capital Territory
AFP
Australian Federal Police
ATS
Amphetamine-type stimulants
DUMA
Drug Use Monitoring in Australia
EDRS
Ecstasy and Related Drugs Reporting System
ENIPID
Enhanced National Intelligence Picture on Illicit Drugs
Eph
Ephedrine
FDI
Forensic Drug Intelligence
GBL
Gamma-butyrolactone
GHB
Gamma-hydroxybutyrate
IDDR
Illicit Drug Data Report
IDRS
Illicit Drug Reporting System
MDMA
3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine
NEC
Not elsewhere classified
NMI
National Measurement Institute
NPS
New psychoactive substances
NSW
New South Wales
NT
Northern Territory
P2P
Phenyl-2-propanone
PIED
Performance and image enhancing drug
PSE
Pseudoephedrine
Qld
Queensland
SA
South Australia
Tas
Tasmania
Vic
Victoria
WA
Western Australia