No surprises in the latest drugs statistics

08 November 2018

Simon Kempton

Simon Kempton

The news that the number of drugs seizures has fallen was predictable, and can be linked partly to falling numbers of police officers, says the Police Federation of England and Wales (PFEW).

Home Office statistics released today show a decrease of 2% in the overall seizures over the past year and a 1% decrease in Class A drugs, which include heroin and ecstasy.

PFEW’s Operational Policing and drugs lead Simon Kempton said: “It is no coincidence that we have lost nearly 22,000 police officers since 2010 – it’s a simple fact that you just can’t do more with less.

“Along with a pinch on resources against a background of austerity, drugs squads have been disbanded, and those that are still operational are having to multi-task and focus on other things as well such as different organised crime gangs.

“Chief Constables have had to re-evaluate their resources and choose where to put their boots on the ground. This could be why the statistics also show an increase in some types of Class A categories, for example cocaine seizures are up by 2% on the previous year, and crack cocaine rose by 6%, while Class B drugs, which include cannabis, dropped by 2%.”

Mr Kempton also blamed successive Governments for the erosion of police Stop and Search powers. He said: “Stop and Search is a useful tool not only in the fight against drugs but also knife crime. Gangs involved in the drugs trade frequently carry them so if you are searching for drugs, you will occasionally find a knife. With the horrific explosion in knife crime we are experiencing, this is something that needs to be looked at again.

“While is it positive that the Home Secretary has urged officers to make full use of police powers, including Stop and Search, you cannot ignore the fact that it is Government policy that has led to a fall in the use of Stop and Search over recent years. Those decisions should be for Chief Constables to make, under the scrutiny of police and crime panels.”

The Home Office report, which covers the period March 2017 – March 2018, also includes data on New Psychoactive Substances (NPS) like nitrous oxide (so-called ‘hippy crack’) and synthetic cannabinoids like Spice for the first time.

Mr Kempton said: “There were 1,523 seizures of NPS over the year. These are substances which were previously described as legal highs but have now been outlawed, and with drugs like Spice, we have seen instances where these are not only blighting our towns but being smuggled into prisons. I suspect this is the tip of the iceberg and I would expect these numbers to rise next year.”

He also repeated the Federation’s call for an honest conversation about drugs, their use and prohibition. He added: “Society, law makers and law enforcers need to take a hard look at this problem because as these latest figures show, it’s not going away any time soon.

“There may be some shift in the popularity of certain types of drugs from year to year, but as we have seen, criminals are happy to exploit the gaps in the market and are bringing new substances out all the time.

As we have said before, there needs to be a public debate on the future of drugs legislation in this country so we can concentrate our dwindling resources where they are needed most.”