New investigation squad formed after $14m cannabis busts

A NEW investigative team for Northern NSW will kick-off with strategies to disrupt drug supply and target gun crime following the recent discovery of more than $14 million worth of cannabis in the region.

More than 7,200 cannabis plants were seized by police in the state's north as part of this year's Cannabis Eradication Program.

A total of 1,893 plants were seized in Coffs Harbour between February 19 to February 22.

Detectives were assisted by police from Richmond, Mid North Coast, Tweed/Byron and Coffs/Clarence Police to track down the cannabis worth an estimated $14,442,000, as well as five firearms.

A total of 29 people were served Court Attendance Notices for various drugs and firearms offences.

A total of 1,893 plants were seized by police in Coffs Harbour between February 19 to February 22.
A total of 1,893 plants were seized by police in Coffs Harbour between February 19 to February 22.

The Northern Region Enforcement Squad (RES), to be based in Coffs Harbour, will be fully operational next month and will consist of one sergeant and six constables.

The Northern RES will conduct investigations into drug supply, firearms offences, and property crime as well as any criminal syndicates operating in the area.

"We have long seen the success of the RES-model in the metropolitan areas, and I believe this team is not only an asset for Northern Region police, but also a win for our community," Det Chief Insp Waddell said.

"The squad will act as a conduit between State Crime Command, particularly the Drug and Firearms Squad, and the Police Districts, focusing on having the highest impact on the crime types which most effect the everyday lives of residents and businesses.

"There will also be an emphasis on assisting Rural Crime Investigators, where groups or syndicates are involved in crime that impact on the function of the pastoral, agricultural, and aquaculture industries."

Following the conclusion of the Drug and Firearms Squad's annual Cannabis Eradication Program (CEP), which targets outdoor cultivation of cannabis, Northern RES will lead follow-up investigations.

Drug and Firearms Squad Commander, Detective Superintendent Peter McErlain, said the investigation doesn't just end at the seizure of $14 million worth of plants.

"Each year, the CEP team gather information and various intelligence about the supply of cannabis and other illicit drugs for further investigation, which will be shared with Northern RES," Det Supt McErlain said.

"The obvious priority is to target the supply chain and associated criminal enterprises, or any activity that threatens the safety of the community.

"We have seen the devastating impact 'ice' has had on remote and rural communities, and we will be working closely with all RES' and local police on targeted activities to reduce availability across the state.

"This includes the importation of ice and its precursors, manufacture in clandestine laboratories, and the supply of this poison at any level," Det Supt McErlain said.

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