Understanding how high-level drug traffickers in Australia respond and adapt to changes in their drug supply

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Date Commenced:
03/2014
Expected Date of Completion:
06/2018
Project Supporters:

Australian Postgraduate Award
National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre PhD Benefit Scheme

Project Members: 
image - Matthew Oreilly
PhD Candidate
Ph 02 8936 1264
image - Caitlin Hughes Square
Senior Lecturer
Ph 02 9385 0132
image - 1313976712 Alison Ritter 005
Director, Drug Policy Modelling Program
Ph 02 9385 0236
Project Main Description: 

Knowledge about drug suppliers, including traffickers, is slim. This stymies our capacity to understand, foresee and forewarn what Australian and international drug traffickers will do and what policy responses are likely to be most effective. This project, which forms the basis for Matthew O'Reilly's doctoral thesis, aims to increase understanding about high-level drug trafficking and drug supply in Australia. 

Rationale: 

In the illicit drug policy arena understanding the nature of supply, demand and harm is of self-evident importance. Yet, both on the international and domestic front knowledge about those that supply the drugs (particularly high-level supply) remains slim. In particular, very little is known about how traffickers respond when there are significant changes in the supply chain. For instance, if there is a significant reduction in Australia’s supply of MDMA, potential responses for MDMA traffickers might be to seek to sell another drug to their clients (e.g. meth/amphetamine), continue to sell MDMA at reduced purity/quality, seek to find new suppliers, exit the market (i.e. to cease being a trafficker altogether) or to enter other forms of crime.The dearth of knowledge in this area stymies current capacity to understand, foresee and forewarn what Australian and international drug traffickers will do in response to significant fluctuations in supply and what policy responses are likely to be most effective.

Aims: 

To increase understanding about high-level drug trafficking and drug supply in Australia.

Component 1. to document key changes in the extent and nature of Australian importation and distribution of two illicit drugs: MDMA and meth/amphetamine

Component 2.  to examine how high level MDMA and meth/amphetamine traffickers operate in the Australian drug market and specifically how they respond to changes in supply (i.e. changes in purity, availability, price, supply routes and competitors/collaborators in the market)

Design and Method: 

The project is divided into two principal components and utilises both quantitative and qualitative methods.

  • Component 1: Using unit-record data from the Department of Immigration and Border Protection, and unit-record purity data from Drug Sciences Group, Victoria Police Forensic Services Department, supply trends for MDMA (+ precursors) and meth/amphetamine (+precursors) will be analysed between 2002 and 2014 to identify changes in the scale and nature of supply of these drugs to and within Australia.
  • Component 2: Publicly available sentencing transcripts from Australian court cases of either serious MDMA or serious meth/amphetamine trafficking offences will be analysed: i.e. cases where the offender was sentenced for trafficking a commercial or large commercial quantity (as defined by the states and territories). A content analysis of the transcripts will determine how MDMA and meth/amphetamine traffickers have responded to changes in supply in the past (i.e. changes in purity, availability, price, supply routes and competitors/collaborators in the market).
Progress/Update: 

The PhD thesis is nearing the first complete draft and will be submitted in June 2018.

Project Research Area: 
Project Status: 
Current