Detective awarded for hard work dismantling Macarthur drug labs

Detective Senior Constable Steven Bernhorster of the Criminal Groups Squad receives an award for his work on Strike Force Lovelle.
Detective Senior Constable Steven Bernhorster of the Criminal Groups Squad receives an award for his work on Strike Force Lovelle.

The detective behind the dismantling of three drug labs in Macarthur last year has been honoured with a special award for his hard work.

Detective Senior Constable Steven Bernhorster was the senior investigator on Strike Force Lovelle, which saw clandestine illicit drug labs dismantled in Rossmore, Mount Hunter and Menangle last year.

He received the Criminal Groups Squad nod at the NSW Police Force State Crime Command Excellence Awards, presented by Rotary Club of Holroyd at the NSW Police Force Headquarters in Parramatta earlier this month. The award recognised the detective's "level of devotion to duty, persistence and professionalism".

Detective Senior Constable Bernhorster told the Advertiser he was grateful for the recognition.

"I find great satisfication in being a detective and investigating all facets of crime which affect the community," he said.

"Drug manufacturing is dangerous for not only those making the drugs, but also persons living in or in close proximity to the drug labs.

"For these reasons I am proud of the work that has been achieved during Strike Force Lovelle.

"I am honoured to have been nominated and to receive this award. I am thankful to Rotary for their work in recognising the work done by NSW Police through putting on these annual awards."

Detective Senior Constable Bernhorster said it was far from an easy task to crack down on the labs.

In fact, the Strike Force was formed in late 2016 and only finished up its work earlier this year.

"The investigation commenced looking into a single location in Picnic Point which was being used to manufacture prohibited drugs," Detective Senior Constable Bernhorster said.

"Over the year, suspects were identified manufacturing large quantities of an ecstasy-type drug at several different locations.

"A total of five locations which had been used to manufacture the drug were identified. Once identified, specialist police attached the State Crime Command's Drug and Firearms Squad's Chemical Operations Team and the Evidence Recovery Section provided support to the detectives in charge of the investigation.

"To those units, I give special thanks."

Detective Senior Constable Bernhorster said there was a lot of risk involved in going through drug labs.

"Dismantling clandestine laboratories would have to be one of the most dangerous forensic operations the police undertake," he said.

"The chemicals used and often the state of these sheds, garages and family homes make for dangerous work.

"Staff dismantling labs within the crime scenes are faced with having to safely deal with the chemicals and equipment while keeping in mind possible items which may be suitable for forensic examination and assist in progressing the investigation."

The detective said there was a huge number of items to keep crack of in the investigation. He said great attention to detail was required for the investigation to be successful.

"As a lead detective in this investigation, it was important to be across items found within the crime scene as often the first time you can enter the crime scene is once the lab has been dismantled," he said.

"This process took between three and five days at each of the locations where large quantities of equipment, chemicals and prohibited drugs had been located.

"To say it's a painstaking process for those involved would be an understatement.

"Each item located needs to be categorised, sampled, photographed and, if suitable, forensically tested.

"At each of the crime scenes in Picnic Point, Menangle and Mount Hunter there were hundreds of exhibits and other items which needed to be assessed and dealt with."

This story Detective awarded for hard work dismantling Macarthur drug labs first appeared on Campbelltown-Macarthur Advertiser.