Cocaine purity falls in Plymouth as drug seizures rise
SEIZURES of cocaine by police have rocketed this year causing dealers to 'cut' their product to record low-purity levels.
The startling revelation came from figures released by Plymouth police which show that since just April 1 this year, during 151 individual seizures of the class A drug, police have amassed a total of 11,802 grams – with an estimated street value of nearly half a million pounds.
Police now believe that this record haul – plus the trickle-down effect of vast seizures by Plymouth-based Royal Navy warships operating in the Gulf and the Caribbean – may have caused drug dealers to bulk out their product with all manner of alternatives.
Drug Liaison Officer Det Con Stuart Payne admits the purity has dropped over the past year or so from 30 to 35 per cent, down to below ten per cent purity. However, he says officers are now "regularly getting cocaine of just two to four per cent purity".
He said: "This is one way the drug dealers attempt to maximise their profits."
A comparison with previous years highlights the dramatic rise in cocaine seizures in the city. For the whole of the April 2008 to April 2009 period, police seized 3,382 grams of cocaine and 189 grams of crack cocaine. The previous year the figure was 2,772 grams, while the 2006 to 2007 period it was just 1,575 grams.
In May this year police seized around three kilos of cocaine from an address in Chaddlewood. In July police found a further four kilos of cocaine at another house in Plympton. The same month two kilos was seized at Ford address and last month police nabbed around £75,000 worth of cocaine after a car chase across the city, while earlier this month a man appeared in court after half a kilo of coke was found at a house in Eggbuckland. Last week another kilo of suspected cocaine was found in a Coxside flat, along with two-and-a-half kilos of potentially lethal 'legal' drug mephedrone.
Doorstaff at the city's pubs and clubs have also topped up the figures with cocaine taken from revellers.
But by far the hugest hauls have been by Royal Navy warships which Det Con Payne feels is beginning to have an effect on the cocaine market.
In July last year Devonport-based frigates took part in seizures which captured around 30 tonnes of drugs, including cocaine. Two months later HMS Argyll assisted UK Border Agency staff seizing £5million worth of cocaine from a yacht just 15 miles off the Cornish coast. In July this year HMS Iron Duke, working with the US Coastguard, uncovered drug traffickers who had £33 million worth of cocaine. The same month the same Royal Navy vessel was involved in a cocaine haul which topped five-and-a-half tonnes of cocaine, estimated at £240 million.
Det Con Payne said: "Seizures by customs and the Royal Navy over the past two years have been sizeable and it can take months afterwards for the effects to filter through to the street.
"In addition Plymouth police have made good seizures during ongoing operations, thanks to excellent intelligence from our sources.
"Over the last few months we're also seeing more taken off people in the pubs and clubs. Door staff are more active and alert to cocaine. We've also taken the passive drug dog into numerous venues as well as the Ion-track machine which swabs and analyses residue on surfaces, such as tables and toilet facilities.
"The price has gone from £60 a gram a few years ago, to £50 and now it's down to £40. But the purity has also gone down. Dealers still have their customer base so that's what they're going to do. They use a number of adulterants – benzocaine, caffeine, lignocaine, codeine, mephedrone and phenacetin. Basically, you never know what you're taking."
Wednesday, December 09, 2009