Northern Netherlands – The number of dismantled synthetic drug production sites in the Northern Netherlands has increased in 2022 compared to the previous year. In 2022, 11 drug labs were rounded up, in 2021 there were still 5. The number of drug lab accidents has also increased. And that is a worrying development, says sector head Sylvia te Wierik of the Regional Investigation Service.
The annual figures of the number of dismantled drug labs and nurseries also show that the number of found drug dumps and storage locations has decreased compared to 2021.
Danger to environment
In Haule, Friesland, a man was killed and a man was seriously injured after a chemical explosion in a drug lab. And in Kiel-Windeweer in Groningen, a body was found on the site where a drug lab had been discovered shortly before. In Drachtstercompagnie, dozens of drums with chemicals were found in a house after a report of a fire. However, it turned out not to be a fire but a chemical explosion. A drug lab was also found in Oude Pekela after a report of a fire. The area had to be evacuated and there were several explosions during the fire.
A possible cause of the increase in the number of accidents may be that – after the peak in boarding and arrests in 2020 due to deciphered crypto communication – less experienced criminals are at work. “Working with chemical substances and processes requires specific knowledge and experience – and that seems to be lacking, resulting in fires and explosions,” says Te Wierik.
Te Wierik calls the increase in accidents worrying. “Apart from the criminal offenses, the danger of a drug lab for the environment is very significant. You cannot imagine the impact of an explosion in a drug lab on a residential area.”
Gerry, senior forensic investigator, emphasizes that. “We see that danger with our own eyes, when we are in a drug lab for research. The National Dismantling Facility (LFO) naturally ensures that the drug lab is safe for us – but we always wear protective gear.”
And that is also necessary, says Gerry. “In such a lab we encounter various chemical substances, of which we do not yet know what they are. That is in large steel boilers, but also in jerry cans or barrels. In amphetamine labs, there is often also brown sludge on the floor – a mixture of all kinds of raw materials and residual products that are needed for the chemical process.”
In the event of an explosion or fire, these chemicals can be released into the environment. “That can be very dangerous,” says Gerry. “We don’t dress in protective clothing for nothing and we work very carefully. Often there are also gas bottles or barrels, sometimes under rubble or other items. This poses a risk to us and the environment. An explosion can throw parts from a lab, such as a very heavy kettle lid, dozens of meters away. If that happens in a residential area, the damage is incalculable.”
It therefore remains important to be alert to signals from drug labs. Detecting suspicious circumstances is primarily the responsibility of the police officers in the base teams. “They are the eyes and ears in neighborhoods and villages. They record all kinds of findings and are therefore an important part of the research,” says Te Wierik. “In case of direct danger to the environment, we must also act immediately. We do that too.”
That danger can also be for the colleagues who then go on site. “There are clear procedures for community police officers and colleagues in emergency aid: don’t go in, drop off and call in experts,” says Gerry. “LFO and FO then arrive on site. LFO focuses on securing and we on the investigation. The focus is on identifying suspects, for example by looking at where chemicals and other items, such as barrels and boilers, come from. That research is complex – but within the police a wonderful combination of thinking and fieldwork.”
The police desperately need citizens in tackling this crime. “In much larger investigations or the discovery of drug production locations, it appears that the local population already knew that something was wrong, but could not put their finger on it,” says Te Wierik. “So we continue to emphasize to citizens to report suspicious signals. Especially in the outlying areas, where we have less insight into everything that is happening.”
Signals are, for example, chemical odors or taped windows and doors. “Sometimes you also see suspicious people driving around with vans at odd times or you suddenly see all sorts of movement around a shed or warehouse, where stuff is being dragged,” says Gerry. “They are all pieces of information that the police need in the investigation, precisely to collect as much information and evidence as possible.”
Reporting really helps. “We also understand that it is exciting to share suspicious situations or suspicions,” says Te Wierik. “But we handle tips and other information very carefully. And if you really want to remain anonymous, there is Meld Misdaad Anoniem. You remain anonymous, also to us.”
|Do you have any tips about the presence of this type of criminal activity? Then report this to the police via the police app or the report form on politie.nl. Of course you can also pass on your information by telephone via 0900-8844. Prefer to remain anonymous? Then call Meld Misdaad Anoniem via 0800-7000 or use the report form from M.|
Information source: Politie.nl