December 7 2013 Latest news:
Peter Walsh, Crime correspondent
Wednesday, September 11, 2013
Tackling drug use and abuse remains a priority here in Norfolk as it does for every one of the 43 police forces in England and Wales but the figures would seem to indicate a corner might have been turned.
Statistics obtained from a Home Office study have revealed just over 8pc of adults admitted taking an illegal drug last year compared with 12.3pc at its peak in 2003/04.
According to the Crime Survey for England and Wales around 2.7 million people admitted taking an illegal drug last year which represent a 0.7pc drop on the previous year.
The survey found the proportion of 16 to 59-year-olds who said they had taken a class A drug in the last year fell from 3pc to 2.6pc – although the level has remained broadly the same since records began.
Among young adults, aged 16 to 24, reported class A drug-use had almost halved since the first survey of its kind in 1996 but reported levels of cocaine-use – the second most popular drug after cannabis – were higher than 17 years ago.
Home Office minister Jeremy Browne said the results overall were “really positive news” with the results also being welcomed by drugs charities in the region, including Norcas, who work with substance users.
But while figures for those adults using illegal drugs is continuing to fall, the number of people being arrested in Norfolk for drug offences remains fairly constant.
Figures released by police show that there were 1,104 people arrested in the county for drug offences in 2012-2013 compared with 1,126 in 2011-2012; 1,224 in 2010-2011; 1,073 in 2009-2010; 1,140 in 2008-2009; and 1,202 in 2007-2008.
Det Supt Alan McCullough of the Joint Norfolk and Suffolk Serious and Organised Crime Directorate insisted the reason there had been no huge fall in drug-related arrests was because officers were doing their job.
He said: “Tackling drugs is one of many force priorities and our aim remains to investigate those who profit from crime ensuring they are prosecuted and their assets confiscated.
“From serious and organised crime teams to local officers we take positive action and such statistics are an example of our pro-activity rather than an apparent increase in drug abuse.
“Police data should not be seen in isolation when considering complex social problems.
“Drugs supply is profit driven and there are very few organised crime groups who do not diversify into other forms of criminality.
“It is important that, with changes in technology, the introduction of modern drug trends such as new psychoactive highs and the borderless movement of people that police and other law enforcement agencies tackle these problems together.
“The fact we are a collaborated unit with resources across Norfolk and Suffolk working alongside colleagues at the Eastern Region Specialist Operations Unit has allowed us to more easily pool resources and information when targeting the most prolific offenders.”
Det Supt McCulloch said police would continue to investigate reports of drug use and supply and recognise the impact that this has on reducing other crime, violence and anti-social behaviour.
He said: “Protecting our communities from harm is important and we will continue to work with partners to reduce the supply of illegal drugs and assist where we are able to reduce demand.”
But while the report found the number of adults using illegal substances had fallen, for the first time the survey featured substances like nitrous oxide and psychoactive drug salvia, both of which are legal highs.
The report found 6pc of young adults used nitrous oxide – or laughing gas – in the last year.
Police in Norwich have this year issued warnings about the dangers of inhaling the gas after canisters of nitrous oxide were discovered.
Half a dozen empty cartridges were discovered in the Prince of Wales Road area of Norwich last month, which prompted a warning from officials from Norfolk County Council’s Trading Standards department and Norfolk police.
The gas, which is used for food packing, catering, dentistry and to boost power in vehicle engines, has become a popular legal high when inhaled.
However, officers said nitrous oxide could pose significant health risks and it is illegal to sell it to a person under the age of 18.
Inhaling the gas can, in extreme cases, kill.
Earlier this month, officers seized several cannisters of laughing gas at the Sundown music festival held at the Norfolk Showground in Costessey.
Anyone who suspects that drug use and dealing is taking place in their area should contact police on 101 or call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555111.