Special Operation Ironside has allowed the AFP to intercept tonnes of drugs and weapons bound for Australia and has prevented people being killed.
About this crime type
About this crime
It is a crime to import, export or possess illegal drugs. Criminal consequences vary depending on the quantity of the drug. The most serious offences carry a penalty of life imprisonment.
The Australian illegal drug market is a lucrative and attractive target for transnational serious and organised crime (TSOC) groups. TSOC costs Australia approximately $60 billion a year, with up to $16.5 billion of this coming from illicit drug activity.
TSOC groups are indifferent to the harm drugs cause individuals, families and communities. Police see firsthand the impacts illegal drugs have on family violence, child neglect, road trauma and community violence.
On average, 40 people are admitted to Australian hospitals daily from methamphetamine, heroin or cocaine use alone. Every week, on average, 16 Australians die from heroin, amphetamine or cocaine overdose.
TSOC groups are a national security threat. They undermine the Australian economy, social security system and financial system. Their business model involves:
Identifying illegal drugs
Illegal drugs generally fall into 3 main categories:
- depressants – heroin, cannabis or GHB
- stimulants – methamphetamines (ice), cocaine or amphetamines (speed)
- hallucinogens – LSD, psilocybin (magic mushrooms) or MDMA (ecstasy).
Illegal drugs are not manufactured in controlled or sterile environments or to any quality standards. There is no control over the quality or quantity of the drug dosage, and users wouldn't know if a drug is mixed with other chemicals.
The Australian Drug Foundation has more information about illegal drugs in the community.
Special Operation Ironside explained
We provided exclusive access to our case vault and this podcast series provides a detailed insight into how the AFP interrupts the most serious of crimes.
We detect and prosecute people who try to import or export illegal drugs. We are the only agency in Australia that takes action across the spectrum of the drug business model, including:
We tackle drug supply onshore and offshore, from its origin to when it reaches Australia's borders and communities.
Our top priority is attacking illegal drug manufacturing and exportation at the point of origin or transit points – before the drugs can cause harm to the Australian community.
Drug-related investigations are a large part of the AFP's work. They are a key pillar in our approach to transnational serious and organised crime.
We focus on supporting Australia's National Drug Strategy 2017–2026 by stopping illegal drugs from entering the community.
To do this, we work with:
- the Australian Border Force (ABF), the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission (ACIC) and the Department of Home Affairs to detect illegal drugs, precursors, and organised crime syndicates
- international law enforcement agencies to disrupt and dismantle drug syndicates offshore
- national law enforcement agencies to investigate and prosecute syndicates attempting to receive drug importations and traffic drugs throughout Australia
- the Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre (AUSTRAC) and other key financial regulatory agencies to strip drug syndicates of illegal profits and prevent funding of future drug importations.
Our teams work alongside these partner agencies every day for strong community outcomes.
The AFP Forensics Command plays an important role in our contribution to stopping illegal drug crime.
When we seize drugs, we analyse samples in partnership with the National Measurement Institute to determine the purity of the drug present and other chemicals the drug may have been mixed with.
A drug's physical and chemical composition can tell us how and where the drug was manufactured and how it came to Australia. This helps us develop a picture of how the drug trade works, from creation to distribution.
Report a crime or concern
We can investigate Commonwealth crimes (sometimes called federal crimes) and crimes that take place in the Australian Capital Territory. What best describes the crime you want to report or what you want to tell us about?
Use your policing, investigation or analysis skills to help us disrupt and dismantle syndicates involved in trafficking illegal drugs.
By helping us minimise drug crime, you're helping to keep the community safe.
The fight against organised crime and illegal drugs has many fronts. We work with partner agencies in Australia and overseas to prevent border-controlled drugs and precursors from coming into Australia.
We employ intelligence officers and analysts to support our investigations and to understand the global drug supply networks.
The AFP Forensics team helps us track a drug's origins and map the supply chain.
If you're interested in a front-line role detecting and stopping drugs at their entry point into Australia, you could become a detection handler as part of National Canine Operations.
Find out more about these roles:
You can apply for positions when they are advertised on our Jobs portal