Whoop Whoop Another Dealer Gone – Really?

Every day appears to be another one of those days where the police are (rightly) ‘marketing’ their success and efficiency (see example)…

I’m sure they are doing their very best… in a difficult climate of myriad social and political impacts, with limited resources (decimated by austerity).

It’s not easy trying to combat all the violence associated with the illicit drugs trade, let alone keep removing drug dealers from the community… despite the continued (minor) successes of any local police force, or The National Crime Agency.

But, should we actually be placing all this responsibility on the police? Arguably, the use of illicit drugs is a public health issue… not a criminal matter, or one that should/can really be addressed by the police,  or the criminal justice system alone. Irrespective of that fact, are any of the police and NCA actions really quite as ‘successful’ as they profess to be?

Convenient Problem Shifting

Sadly, significant success in one particular geographic area is usually only temporary and often, simply results in ‘problems’ relocating to other areas… those areas that are often less able to deal with them, due to limited/less resources.

Statistics, recently reported by the BBC suggest; drug crime is increasing in many small towns, particularly in Northeast England, despite significant reductions in the larger urban conurbations (read more). But police raids continue across the NE region, with some high levels of ‘success’ …apparently (see  below).

  • “Nine drug dealing suspects charged after dozens of raids throughout Gateshead” (Chronicle Live).
  • “Cleveland Police executes early morning drugs raids in Hartlepool” (Northern Echo).
  • “A 17-year-old man has been arrested in Middlesbrough after police discovered thousands of pounds worth of drugs and cash in his car” (Northern Echo).
  • Three men have been convicted of being part of a cocaine deal worth £58,000 that took place in a Darlington pub car park (Northern Echo).
  • “Police uncover cannabis farm in Wheatley Hill, County Durham” (Chronicle Live).
  • “Upmarket bars in the Collingwood Street area of Newcastle were the focus of an undercover police operation aimed at city centre cocaine dealing, court hears” (Chronicle Live)
  • “Detectives fear Newcastle could be prime target for ‘County Lines’ drug lords from bigger cities” (Chronicle Live)
  • The North East drug dealers who have been jailed for peddling illegal substances in 2019 (Chronicle Live)

And so it continues however; “Drug crime is increasing in many small towns and villages even as recorded offences fall significantly in city centres, according to the BBC who recently mapped drug crime occurrences (see here).

The ONS has referred to a “marked north-south divide” in the rate of deaths as a result of drug misuse (BBC)

Despite recent government announcements about; an “extra £85m worth of funding” designed to mitigate against the problems or even, BoJo’s [disputed] ‘extra’ 20,000 police officers, tackling the associated violent crime connected to the drugs trade, isn’t going to show over-night success. And, drug-related deaths continue to “soar to their highest levels” on record (see here).

Scotland are rightly concerned about being labelled as the ‘drug-death capital of Europe‘ but the latest ONS data suggest that England & Wales are fast following suit, with all the issues and problems currently being faced North of the border.

Britain is facing a public health emergency as alarming figures for England and Wales show drug-related deaths have hit record levels, prompting calls for damaging cuts to treatment services to be urgently reversed. (The Guardian)

And all this is also part of a marked North-South divide; evidence that poverty, deprivation and drug use tend to go hand in hand. As does the associated violence that takes place to protect the commercial interests of organised crime gangs… the supply chain follows the demand, in the simple economics of the market-place. There should be no surprise about the correlation between drug use and the poverty and wealth statistics (see here).

Mark Easton, Home Editor at the BBC, recently asked; “How do you stop people dying from illegal drug taking?” Providing one single answer isn’t easy, there are no simple solutions, there is no ‘quick fix’ (pun intended).

Heroin addiction casts a deadly shadow over Britain. Fatalities involving the drug have doubled since 2011, and now stand at their highest level since records began. Behind the statistics lie stories of people dying in their homes, hospitals and in the streets, leaving children, siblings and friends behind. (The Independent)

The Independent article (above), suggests that “Britain’s past holds the key to breaking the deadly cycle of heroin addiction and crime” and, as Andy Gregory points out… “The UK was once a world leader in treating drug addiction” so what happened? Reduced funding for addiction services and all manner of social support functions, thanks to (politically motivated) austerity, that’s what happened.

Vulnerable users continue to be jailed for possession, or for committing crime to fund their use, while increasingly powerful and violent organised crime groups exploit children to pump the drug into every part of the country. (The Independent)

Drug use and/or ‘misuse’ is predominantly a public-health problem, OK it’s one that finds its roots in a myriad societal factors. That being the case, why do we then look to a singular punitive approach to mitigate against those problems?

The 30+% reduction in funding for addiction services in recent years is a significant factor in the rise of problems [deaths] we face as a society and yes, nothing will get easily ‘fixed’ in the short-term but we can’t just keep talking about the issues.

I’m with the growing number of professionals in the field of addictions treatment (clinicians), recovery support (peer mentors), the criminal justice system (police, PCCs, Barristers) and addictions academia who suggest that one thing is for certain; the continued (but failed) so-called War on Drugs must come to an end and it must happen sooner, rather than later!

Increasingly, the only people who aren’t listening to the evidence are the populist politicians. Self-interested people that are enabled and empowered by a mischievous media machine; the source of [incorrect / emotive] our public understanding about drugs and addictions. Commercial entities that continually spew unfounded virtue-signalling rhetoric and emotive clickbait headlines… delivering social-engineering at its worst.

Our society’s continued (political) belief that ever more punitive measures are the answer is, inexplicable… verging on criminal. The vast majority of ‘experts’ in the field of addictions will tell you today (and have told us, until they’re blue in the face); based upon all the available statistics and evidence… trying to arrest our way out of this social problem is both puerile and futile. Not only that but in many respects, actually compounds so many of those negative factors associated with the trade in drugs.

These issues are killing people in our society and like it or not, they are also having a significant impact upon non drug using individuals… no matter how deep you wish to bury  head in the sand, the continued War on Drugs is actually killing our society!

Addendum (28th Aug 2019)