Online drug trafficking on the rise, B.C. crime researcher says resources needed

Police need to pay more attention to the growing online crypto drug trade, according to a study.

Richard Frank, an associate professor of criminology at Simon Fraser University in Burnaby, British Columbia, said the crypto market is attractive to buyers and sellers with its lower prices, contactless transactions and wide variety of drugs.

He is part of a research team studying illegal activity for the Office of Crime Reduction and Gang Outreach, which needs data on the size and scope of the online problem to justify the need for more funding to tackle the problem.

Frank, who is also director of the International Center for Cybercrime Research, said the group analyzed the eight largest so-called crypto markets between June 2021 and January 2022.

The study showed that nearly 17 tons of pharmaceuticals were trafficked in eight markets for $234.7 million, with the most popular drugs being stimulants, cannabis, opioids and benzodiazepines.

Frank said the first crypto marketplace was identified around 2010, and while police shut down sites where possible, it’s been “like whack-a-mole” since then.

“You close one (and) two or three springs. Some will go away on their own, but you still close some and then they get replaced,” he said in an interview Monday. “The problem is getting worse, but it’s not because of a lack of effort on the part of law enforcement. More importantly, it’s just getting more mature.”

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