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More Drugs Than Ever Are Being Seized Across Australia In Police Crackdowns

Drugs are getting into Australia hidden in machinery, vehicles and other novel nooks -- but police are up to the task.

Drug runners are getting more daring, trying to smuggle more illicit substances into Australia, but they're getting caught at record rates. A record 30.6 tonnes of illicit drugs was seized across Australia in 2017-18 -- the equivalent of five elephants.

All up there were 112,827 drug seizures (or one every five minutes) and 148,373 illicit drug arrests (one every four minutes) according to an Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission report released on Tuesday.

The total haul of seized drugs had an estimated street value of $5 billion.

Drugs seized from a van that crashed into police cars outside Eastwood police station in 2019. Photo: NSW Police

While some users are ordering drugs online and getting them delivered straight to their doorstep, cutting out the middle man, organised crime groups are still believed dominating the trade.

"Serious and organised criminals are at the centre of Australia’s illicit drug market, motivated by greed, power and profit," ACIC CEO Michael Phelan said.

"We know serious and organised crime groups continue to generate significant profits from the sale of illicit substances, with the price paid for illicit drugs in Australia among the highest in the world.”

The number of national illicit drug seizures has increased 67 percent over the last decade, with methylamphetamine one of the drugs of choice for Australians.

Close to 10 tonnes of 'ice' is consumed in Australia each year, with Western Australia and New South Wales the hot spots.

The drugs were found concealed inside a 15-tonne injection moulding machine. Photo: NSW Police

The number of seizures remained high and relatively stable with 11.2 tonnes of the drug seized in 2017–18 -- the second-highest weight on record.

The statistics were unveiled on the same day a 22-year-old airline customer service officer fronted court in NSW, accused of importing more than $115 million worth of methylamphetamine into the country.

READ MORE: $200m Of Ice Found After Van Crashes Into Police Cars Outside Station

But it's not just ice use that's on the rise. According to the ACIC figures, the weight of cannabis seized in 2017-18 jumped 14.7 percent -- also the second-highest amount recorded in the last decade.

New South Wales accounted for the greatest proportion of seizures (30.0 percent), followed by Western Australia (28.4 percent) and Queensland (28.0 percent).

Photo: ACIC

The cocaine market is also on the up.

“Using data from the National Wastewater Drug Monitoring Program, the ACIC estimates more than 4.1 tonnes of cocaine is consumed in Australia each year,” the report read.

While the number of cocaine seizures increased by 11.6 percent, the weight of the drugs seized plummeted more than half to about 1970 kilograms.

Source: ACT Policing News.

That's also the second-highest figure recorded in Australia in the last decade. The majority of the haul originated in Colombia, but travelled to Australia via South Africa.

It's a trend that appears to be continuing with several big busts in 2019, including the seizure of hundreds of kilograms of cocaine stashed inside an excavator.

ACT police confirmed in July that the machine was imported from South Africa.

READ MORE: $144 Million Of Cocaine Found Hidden In An Excavator

“Illicit drug use cannot be addressed by law enforcement alone, a multi-faceted approach is needed,” said Phelan.

“The risk and harm posed by illicit drugs to the Australian community is ever growing, which underscores the need for law enforcement and health agencies to work collaboratively to combat both the supply and demand for illicit drugs in Australia.”