Drugs offences in England and Wales rose by 27% during lockdown despite total recorded crime dropping by one-quarter. The data obtained by the PA News Agency under Freedom of Information laws showed that thousands more crimes linked to banned substances were recorded by police between 23rd March and 25th May than in the same 9-week period last year.

In total, 26 police forces that responded recorded 25,665 drugs offences, including trafficking and possession, between 23rd March and 25th May this year, compared with 20,220 in the same period in 2019. Essex reported the highest increase in recorded drug offences at 61%. This was followed by Warwickshire (45%), Cumbria (41%) and Met Police (40%).

The increase in drug-related crime follows the latest total national figures for all crime reported by the National Police Chiefs’ Council, which showed a 25% drop in England and Wales in the 4-week period to 10th May.

Dealers in disguise

In the initial stage of lockdown, several police forces reported that dealers were dressing up as key workers, or in supermarket and parcel delivery worker uniforms in order to camouflage themselves as they make drop-offs on street corners. Other dealers were going undercover as runners in order to shift bags of crack and heroin around their community.

Last month, it was reported that some drug dealers had started providing home deliveries as their trade took a hit during lockdown. The international policing agency Interpol said that criminal gangs were using fast food couriers to deliver recreational drugs to people confined at home because of the coronavirus lockdowns.

Metropolitan Police Force Commissioner, Dame Cressida Dick, said: “We know some of the drug dealers, both in county lines and beyond, have adapted the way they operate. They have had to. There has certainly been talk of more home deliveries to people’s houses by those who are brave. That’s certainly what my local officers are telling me, that they are seeing more of that. People who aren’t going out are asking for the drugs to come to them. That’s putting the drug dealers more at risk and making them more obvious.”

Between 16th March and 20th May, Met officers made 800 more arrests related to drug crime compared with the same period in 2019 (1431 to 2232), and charged nearly 500 more people (346 to 841). They also seized £22.4 million thought to be linked to drug crime in cash, freezing orders and confiscations.

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