The £1.4bn war on drugs Narcotics behind half of burglaries and six-fold rise in rough sleeping in region
WEST Midlands Police are tracking 54 organised crime gangs across the region at the heart of a drugs trade worth nearly £200 million.
The huge scale of the war on drugs has been revealed in a detailed police report that suggests half of all robberies, burglaries and thefts are committed by heroin, crack and cocaine users.
The report – published by the region’s police and crime commissioner, David Jamieson – is an attempt to set out the true scale and cost of drug addiction across the area for the first time.
It found the annual social care, health and criminal justice costs for the estimated 22,500 “problematic” heroin and crack users across the region is a staggering £1.4 billion – or £62,320 for each person.
The contents of the 15-page report could lead to new proposals by the end of the year on ways to “reduce the crime and harm that results from drugs”.
The report says dozens of criminal gangs are “significantly involved” in the region’s drug trade and adds that drug addiction is behind a six-fold increase in rough sleeping across Birmingham since 2010.
It said: “On July 24, 2017, there were 84 Organised Crime Groups (OCGs) being tracked by West Midlands Police.
“Thirty-one OCGs were primarily involved in drug-related criminality, 18 involved as a sec- ondary flag, and five marked with drugs as a tertiary concern.
“This means 54 out of the 84 OCGs (64 per cent) are significantly involved in drug-related crime.
“Those OCGs involved in drugs are more likely to be operating internationally and more likely to have links to firearms.
“Organised criminals in the West Midlands are profiting from a drug market worth approximately £188 million.”
On the issue of homelessness the report added: “Rough sleeping has in fact more than tripled since 2010 in the West Midlands with a six-fold increase in Birmingham. In many cases addiction can be both a cause and a result of homelessness.
“Given the Government’s analysis that enforcement does not deter use, we must be more creative in addressing issues of supply and demand.
“The police will continue to respond to crimes where they occur, while recognising that preventing crimes from hap-
Drugs at the moment are costing the region an estimated £1.4 billion a year
pening in the first place is the best way to protect people.”
Mr Jamieson, who described substance misuse as a “priority issue” in the report, said: “We have higher crime rates and there are more victims of crime because of the collective failure to tackle the issues surrounding drugs.
“The harm and misery that drugs are causing is unacceptable. This misery is also a source of profit for organised crime that needs stamping out.
“Drugs at the moment are costing the region an estimated £1.4 billion a year – money that could be supporting our schools, hospitals or funding police officers. This is the cost of failure.
“Before the end of the year I will host a wide-ranging summit to discuss practical solutions to tackle the issue of drugs, crime and the harm that they cause. I will report back in the new year with deliverable proposals that I think can reduce the crime and harm that results from drugs.”
Crime commissioner David Jamieson