ICE drug labs, what to look for

Could you spot a drug lab?

NSW Drug Squad Commander, Detective Superintendent Tony Cooke, has seen hundreds of clandestine drug laboratories producing Ice during his time in the NSW Police Force, and comes across all types of operations.

“Some are located in rural properties, others in family homes in residential neighbourhoods, we’ve had labs in high rise apartments and even set up in tents in the bush,” Det Supt Cooke said.

“I’ve seen laboratories where large commercial operations have been set up in factory units, right down to small addiction-based labs in the bathroom of a family home.

“There are no hard and fast rules when it comes to those people manufacturing Ice, but there are the telltale signs of a drug house that you can look out for.”

Strange odours

The drug manufacturing process involves mixing, breaking down or changing the structure of precursor substances using other chemicals and heat sources, and this creates unusual odours. In particular, Drug Squad detectives often notice a strong acetone smell when attending Ice labs.

Chemical containers and waste

Clandestine drug laboratories create a lot of toxic waste, and it’s often stored onsite in buckets or dumped nearby. That’s not to mention the chemical storage containers often found discarded in or around lab sites.

Blacked out windows

Drug manufacturers will often cover or black out the windows, either with window coverings or foil, to hide their illicit activity from the neighbours.

Hoses and pipes in strange places

Many drug manufacturers will use household items to make their drugs, including hoses, pipes and containers bought from hardware stores. An excess of these types of items around a property could be a sign of illicit activity taking place.

Vehicles arriving at odd hours

Criminals don’t just work during business hours. The drug manufacturing process requires regular checking, so it’s not uncommon for those involved in the manufacture of Ice to come and go. Unusual vehicle movements could also be a sign of drug supply occurring at a property.

Det Supt Cooke said any person who suspects a property is being used to manufacture Ice should report it to Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.

“Your call can make a difference,” he said.