Police dismantled more than 100 drug labs last year, slightly more than the year before. The south of the Netherlands remains an important production site for synthetic drugs, but labs are increasingly popping up in the west and north of the country.
“There are criminal organizations that are also looking for locations there,” notes Willem Woelders, who is responsible for countering drugs at the police. He sees a shift from Limburg and North Brabant to other parts of the Netherlands. “They look where they can go about their business inconspicuously. That could be anywhere.”
In total, the police dismantled 105 drug laboratories last year, where mainly amphetamine (speed), crystal meth and ecstasy were made. Of the labs, 11 were located in Friesland, Groningen and Drenthe and 22 in North and South Holland.
The police also found 17 cocaine laundries, mainly in South Holland. In these labs, cocaine, which is hidden in clothing, shampoo and coal, for example, is filtered out with chemicals. The police suspect that criminals have started smuggling more cocaine in this way, in addition to the ‘old-fashioned’ blocks hidden between loads of fruit.
View the number of synthetic drug production locations per province here:
According to the police, the number of fires and explosions in drug labs is striking. It went wrong fourteen times last year. For example, one person died when a drug lab exploded in Haule in Friesland. Someone also died in a lab in Zaandam, while a body was found among drug waste in Kiel-Windeweer in Groningen.
“This may be due to inexperience of cooks,” says Woelders. “We have rounded up a number of large criminal organizations in recent years. But the trade continues, so less experienced people may now be flown in.”
According to the police, the fires and explosions make it clear how great the risks are. “It is extremely dangerous for people who live or work near such a drug lab.”
Along the edge
In Oude Pekela, a large fire raged in a drug lab in a residential area last year. There was also a series of explosions. “We really walked along the edge,” says mayor Kuin. “If the explosions had been bigger or the fire brigade had come later, there could have been deaths.”
Labs were also rounded up in surrounding villages last year, Kuin notes. “We may have been a bit naive and thought it wouldn’t happen here. But there are a lot of empty buildings, so people think they can hide here too.”
Cleaning up the lab in Oude Pekela cost the municipality seven tons. Large quantities of chemicals had to be removed and the soil had to be excavated and remediated. “We even had to dispose of the fire extinguishing water as chemical waste.”
Despite the increased number of labs, much less drug waste is found. Last year, the police recorded 155 dumping of chemicals, almost all for the production of synthetic drugs. That is a quarter less than the year before and the lowest number of waste dumps since 2014.
The police believe that criminals are more likely to leave their waste in the labs. When they finally run away, the landlord of the shed or shed is left with the mess.
Another possibility, according to the police, is that the waste is disposed of in unknown and inconspicuous ways, rather than in jerry cans and barrels that are left behind on a deserted country road.
The number of closed hemp plantations has also fallen further. Last year there were 1600. Five years ago, the police found almost 4000 cannabis farms. The police are giving less priority to tracking down and clearing cannabis farms. Moreover, according to the police, they are better hidden and therefore more difficult to find, and Meld Misdaad Anoniem receives considerably fewer tips about cannabis plantations.
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