How 'Ice Highway' busts give towns a chance to rebuild
SIX major police operations across the southwest in the past 12 months have shattered the domination drug traffickers have had on small regional towns.
More than 300 people are facing more than 1500 charges, predominantly related to the production, trafficking and supply of methylamphetamines, and all in the southwest police district.
Chief among them this week is what police believe are the kingpins profiting from the struggles of addicts in Roma, using major highways dissecting the far reaches of the Maranoa region to fuel the drug trade.
In closing Operation Papa Knot, Southwest Police Acting Superintendent Paul Hart says the arrests are a fresh start.
"I think the focus that we've applied to the closure of Operation Papa Knot is to stress to the community that it's not a negative; it's certainly a positive for the community in that it wipes the slate clean," he said.
Operation Papa Knot was formed in March last year to target drug traffickers and suppliers of methylamphetamines in Roma and nearby towns.
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More than 60 officers swept through the town which sits at the crossroads of the Warrego Highway and Carnarvon Highway, and serves as a major interstate transport route.
The protracted 14-month operation identified what police believe are the high-level players in a sophisticated and far-reaching drug distribution network, including the use of heavy vehicles to ship supplies.
"That has provided a means for these offenders that we will be alleging have used vehicles to transport quantities of ice throughout the state, and it has been centred here in Roma," Acting Supt. Hart said.
Police seized 147.2g of methylamphetamines, worth about $147,000, from a Roma home as one of the 11 arrested faces 400 charges, including trafficking and supply.
"Ice does tear at the fabric of a small community," Acting Supt. Hart said.
"In remote and rural locations such as southwest Queensland, we know we're not immune to the ravages of ice and other dangerous drugs.
"There will always be people who will suffer from addiction problems. There will also be people who will try and profit from that."
Breaking the stranglehold gives towns a chance to move on in a positive way, such as St George which last October was left reeling from similar sweeping drug raids with the closure of Operation Oscar Kohl.
Of the 39 people arrested on a combined 170 charges, seven were charged with trafficking.
The immensity stunned the town which has since rebuilt and repaired itself in close collaboration with police, this week opening the Many Tribes Gallery giving the local indigenous community a new sense of purpose.
That community and police collaboration will now be rolled out in Roma.
"It provides the opportunity to show that they say no to drugs, they don't want drugs in the community and they take a stand against drugs," Acting Supt. Hart said.
"More importantly we set things in place so that the scourge of ice doesn't come back in to our community on a level that we've seen it."
>Six police operations, by the numbers
MORE than 300 people have been arrested and charged in the past 12 months as police continue a relentless war in ice trafficking and supply in regional areas.
Operation Papa Knot which this week netted 11 people on more than 630 charges is the latest protracted investigation to close in the southwest region.
"It is well documented the devastating consequences drugs such as ice has on communities with the issue not restricted to just one area or region," South West Police Acting Superintendent Paul Hart said this week.
"We made a commitment to our community to address the drug supply issues in the South West District and the closure of this operation is testament to our officers and the community as a whole, working together to remove dangerous drugs from the streets."
- Closed: May 29, 2018
- Started: March, 2017
- Arrests: 11 (final day) 92 arrests over 12 months prior on 176 charges
- Charges: 633 (final day)
- Closed: March 14, 2018
- Started: March 11, 2018
- Arrests: 39
- Charges: 72 offences
- Closed: February 15, 2018
- Started: February 5, 2018
- Arrests: 18
- Charges: 40
- Closed: October 12, 2017
- Started: August, 2015
- Arrests: 14 (day 2) 25 (day 1)
- Charges: 43 (day 2) 170+ (day 1)
Operation Papa Detector
- Closed: July 20, 2017
- Started: July 20, 2017
- Arrests: 5 arrests
- Charges: 19+
- NSW/QLD joint operation
Operation Oscar Oneida
- Closed: July 4, 2017
- Started: November 2016
- Arrests: 102
Charges: 407 offences