Gangs spreading ice into regional Australia: taskforce

ORGANISED crime gangs are expanding into regional communities to distribute ice, a Federal Government report has found.

The final report of the National Ice Taskforce released on Sunday said organised crime, especially outlaw motorcycle gangs, was spreading into regional Australia which gave easy access to major highways and vulnerable populations to sell and distribute the drug ice.

"Methamphetamine distribution accounts for a significant amount of the criminal activity of many outlaw motorcycle gangs. Some of these groups have expanded their distribution networks and customer bases by extending their activities into regional areas," the report said.

"This has also enabled them to establish new localised groups or chapters, take advantage of major transport routes and exploit vulnerable populations in regional and remote locations."

The report found ice's popularity was growing in regional communities - although from a low base.

"There is also often a strong correlation between the presence of outlaw motorcycle gang members or chapters in a regional location and increased distribution of ice in the area," the report said.

"In many cases, the outlaw motorcycle gang chapter is the only organised crime group represented in the area, giving them control of distribution over other organised crime groups."

The report recommended the federal government work with state governments to target bikie gangs and other organised crime networks selling ice in regional Australia.

"The Commonwealth Government should exercise existing powers to identify organised crime groups that are operating in regional and remote areas," it recommended.

"This information should be used to identify methods of regional ice distribution, sources of new demand, and to generate operational leads for local law enforcement representatives."

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull yesterday announced a $300 million program, over four years, to improve community engagement to tackle ice. - APN NEWSDESK

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