Drug seizures at 14-year high in North Herts

POLICE data obtained by The Comet reveals that drug busts are at a 14 year high in North Herts with visible patterns emerging in the force’s data.

The figures were released after a Freedom of Information request to Herts Constabulary and show that seizures have jumped from 471 in 1996 to 762 last year.

Detective Superintendent Mark Drew, part of the local policing command team, said: “We don’t get an increase in drug seizures without some sort of positive action.

“There’s not more drugs on the streets. It is a result of positive action by the police.”

Notably there has been an increase in busts for cocaine, up from four in 1996 to 112 in 2010, herbal cannabis, 56 to 497 in the same period, and marijuana plants, from 15 to 33.

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Finds of cannabis resin, amphetamine, and, MDMA, otherwise known as Ecstasy, in both pill and powder form have dropped.

Substance abuse charity Drugscope says that the increase in seizures of cannabis plants and drop-in discoveries of resin reflects a national move towards home-grown marijuana and their figures suggest 96 farms were discovered in Herts last during 2009/10, 26 more than in 2007/8.

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A spokesman for the group said: “The UK now produces its own cannabis, with the majority, about 85 per cent, of the herbal variety.

“This completely flips the situation from a decade ago, which saw a similar figure being imported in resin form from North Africa.

“There’s a variety of reasons, including better EU enforcement and the emergence of Vietnamese gangs who got a foothold of the local trade around the midpoint of the last decade. The trade has now largely passed into the hands of UK gangs.”

Det Supt Drew also said that the police were finding that more cannabis was being produced inside the country, rather than being imported.

He said: “It’s a pattern that’s coming across the whole country.

“Offenders are looking to grow cannabis locally rather than import it, I would suggest, because nationally there has been an increase in cannabis factories.

“It’s very difficult to say that more people are using certain drugs. All I can really say is that we’re effective at targeting certain drugs at any one time.”

Police seizures for non-injection amphetamine dropped from 117 in 1996 to 11 last year and a similar fall recorded in Ecstasy, which dropped from 60 to 11 in the same period, in line with an increase in coke busts.

Drugscope also says this reflects a national trend.

A spokesman said: “In terms of trends, stimulants such as Ecstasy and amphetamines have seen a decline in use over the last 10 years.

“Cocaine was rising up until a couple of years ago, though this has also dropped off in the last couple of years. “Nationally, the number of seizures of cocaine has risen steadily since 2003.”

Herts police are working alongside treatment centres such as the Living Room, in Stevenage, to help treat those arrested who are addicted to drugs, and who say that in the past few years it has seen an increase in those seeking treatment for problems relating to crack cocaine abuse.

A drugs project worker and counsellor also says that crack cocaine, heroin and skunk (high grade herbal cannabis) are causing problems.

Police seizures for crack, cocaine that has been treated into powerful rocks and smoked, have fluctuated throughout the years from one seizure in 1996 to 100 in 2008. Last year there were eight crack busts.

Drug counsellor Sam Larbalestier said: “The main drugs that people are presenting themselves with are crack. Heroin’s a big one, cocaine as well.

“But it tends to be if they’re on heroin they’re on crack as well.

“Crack seems to be the major one... we don’t get many clients that come in using amphetamines, Ecstasy or acid.

“Crack seems to be more readily available now. Seven years ago there were a few people on it, today crack’s almost a big thing.

“I think the police are doing the best they can with what they have got.”

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