Drug deaths soar: Police target pushers

Police in Norfolk have vowed to take a tough line on drug pushers as new figures show drug-related deaths have almost doubled in two years.

Police in Norfolk have vowed to take a tough line on drug pushers as new figures show drug-related deaths have almost doubled in two years.

Latest government figures show 60 people in the county died as a result of taking drugs in 2005 - a rise from 34 deaths in 2003.

Now, in the wake of a series of successful drugs raids on properties across the county, Norfolk Constabulary says it will continue to take a hard line on drugs, and vowed to do all it can to catch and imprison organised dealers.

Det Sgt Dave Mytton oversaw seven raids in Norwich in the past fortnight, which resulted in 11 arrests and the seizure of about 2,000 cannabis plants.

He said: “I hope this recent series of raids and arrests has sent out a strong message to criminals. We will not tolerate it and are taking action - if you are involved in plying this trade, it is only a matter of time before we turn up on your doorstep.”

In Suffolk, there were 25 drug-related deaths in 2005, in Hertfordshire there were 43, while in Cambridgeshire there were 26.

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Essex showed a slight increase from 45 deaths in 2003 to 47 in 2005.

Penny McVeigh, chief executive of Norwich-based drug and alcohol advisory service Norcas, said: “The sad truth of the matter is that the number of problematic drug users continues to increase across the country - and Norfolk is no exception.

“Consequently there are increases in the number of drugs-related deaths. It should, however, be seen in context with the number of alcohol-related deaths, which will be considerably higher.

“The part that alcohol plays in alcohol-related deaths is considerably more significant than these very sad drugs figures.”

Norwich Coroner William Armstrong said: “There are a depressing number of people who are dying through drugs misuse.”

A Norfolk police spokesman said: “A key element of our work is to reduce the number of deaths associated with the misuse of illegal drugs. We do this by making our work with partner agencies a priority.

“Both crime reduction and harm reduction are overlapping considerations and we continue to work closely with the Norfolk Drug and Alcohol Action Team to achieve our aims.”

Daniel Harry, from Norfolk's Drugs and Alcohol Action Team (DAAT), said the figures quoted were potentially “misleading” as they list a large number of different statistical definitions of drug-related deaths.

He said: “The DAAT, in common with all DAATs across the UK, works to reduce the harm caused by illegal drugs. A key element of this work is to reduce the number of deaths associated with the misuse of illegal drugs.”

t For further details about the work carried out by the Norfolk DAAT, log on at www.nordat.org.uk

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