Cocaine seizures rocket across Comet country

AN exclusive Comet investigation into cocaine seizures across Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire has revealed that the number of people caught with the Class A drug has rocketed over the past eight years.

The figures, obtained from the two counties’ police forces, show that in 2002/2003 there were 63 seizures of cocaine powder by Bedfordshire police and 122 by Hertfordshire Constabulary in the same period.

Fast forward to 2009/2010, and there were 199 seizures in Bedfordshire, more than triple that taken in 2002/2003, and 657 across Hertfordshire.

Martin Barnes, chief executive of drug policy and information charity DrugScope, said: “The figures showing a rise in the number of cocaine seizures in Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire which reflect a national trend.

“Since the late 1990s, the availability of cocaine has increased, while the price of the drug has fallen, along with its purity.

“The number of users of the drug increased significantly in the late 1990s, but since then, overall use has remained relatively stable.”

Only Hertfordshire Constabulary could provide information broken down by division.

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In Stevenage from 2002/2003 there were 11 seizures of powdered cocaine, but by 2009/2010 this figure had increased by six times to 66.

Seizures have also increased across North Hertfordshire, from four to 42, an increase of ten times in the same period.

Hertfordshire Constabulary claims that drug use has not increased, but detection methods have improved, leading to the increased figure.

A spokesman said: “All crime continues to fall in Hertfordshire, and the rise in the number of seizures of cocaine and crack is due to a number of factors, including increased police activity to proactively target dealers, and members of the public coming forward with information.

“It is important to note that these figures do not necessarily mean there is an increased drugs problem in Hertfordshire. The county does not have a significant drugs problem and people should not be concerned but feel reassured.

“We are committed to reducing the supply of illegal drugs and the impact which drug-related crime has on our communities, and where drug issues do arise, we deal robustly.”

The use of crack cocaine has also gone up across Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire, however not to the same extent as the more popular powdered form.

Detective Superintendent Paul Coombes, who is responsible for intelligence in the force, said: “Seizures of cocaine have gone up noticeably in the last few years, and because of the targeted work we do against dealers at every level, some of the seizures we have had have been very large indeed.

“Last year we brought in above 42 kg of cocaine and crack.

“We regularly do coordinated “test purchase” operations – where officers pose as drug users and buy from dealers on the street – with the purpose of identifying suppliers who we can later arrest.”