The £1.4bn war on drugs Nar­cotics be­hind half of bur­glar­ies and six-fold rise in rough sleep­ing in re­gion

Birmingham Post - - NEWS - Nick McCarthy Crime Correspondent

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

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