University of Twente students are helping to improve documentation on the production chain of synthetic drugs. Their main focus is on drug waste disposal sites. By linking various types of data, the students will contribute to developing a better understanding of the growing public nuisance caused by the dumping of drugs in the province of Overijssel and will be helping to find solutions to this societal problem. The investigation results will be used to facilitate prevention and enforcement activities.
The University of Twente students can access data provided by the province of Overijssel, the police and the IJsselland environmental agency (Omgevingsdienst IJsselland), and use this information to help in the fight against synthetic drugs including ecstasy and heroin. Throughout the Netherlands the number of drug labs is increasing significantly and the waste from these drug labs is frequently dumped in the countryside or even in residential areas. This chemical waste is a public health hazard and the specialist disposal services required are costly. The number of dumping operations has been on the rise for the last ten years. In 2018, the police counted 55 drug dumps in the east of the Netherlands, compared to a total of 44 in 2017.
Maya van den Berg, the project leader, says: “The students analyze patterns of the location data, i.e. the sites where drug waste is dumped. The police are trying to determine how the chains work and they hope that the students will be able to identify new links. We hope that our students can help shed light on this.”
The data provided by the province of Overijssel includes details on building locations, nature conservation areas and company information. “If a company moves from one warehouse to another in just a few weeks it could indicate that something is amiss”, said Remko Wicherson, who works at the provincial office, in an interview with of the regional broadcasting network RTV Oost. “It is never proof that something is wrong, but in combination with other information, it could prove to be useful.”
The student’s project is being driven by University of Twente’s DesignLab. The multidisciplinary team consists of students studying Electrical Engineering, Communication Science, International Business Administration, Creative Technology and Interaction Technology.
The investigation results will become available at the end of this month.