[h1]EXCLUSIVE: 'Buy 2, get 1 free' drug deals[/h1]
Monday, January 19, 2009, 10:00
PUSHERS are offering cut-price deals on class A drugs in the South West – because of the recession.
As the credit crunch starts to affect the criminal underworld in the Westcountry, pushers are offering increasingly attractive deals on drugs including cocaine – becoming more and more popular as a recreational party drug – because cash-conscious users are buying less.
Police believe they are also offering "economy" versions of drugs, selling less potent cuts at a lower price to try to keep users buying their products.
There is also a warning from drug treatment charities that dealers could extend their "turf" into new areas to try to snare more users and that more people will try to seek help for their problems, putting pressure on resources at a time when budgets are being cut.
Det Con Mike Bradley, Devon and Cornwall Police's drugs intelligence officer, said: "It is a two-tier market – it is the difference between say Lidl's bread and Sainsbury's finest. For cocaine, you can pay around £50 (per gram) for the best stuff or £35 for less good.
"It has been happening certainly in the past six months, for two reasons. One is that people do have less money, cocaine is a party drug and people are being more careful financially. Secondly, dealers are realising that if they cut it with a cheap cutting agent, they can make more money at a difficult time."
The WMN understands that deals like "buy two grams, get one free" are being offered at street level as pushers see fewer people coming to them.
And higher up the criminal chain, wholesale suppliers are believed to be offering street-level dealers themselves increasingly generous terms in a bid to increase the amount of drugs they are selling.
Drug treatment charity Addaction (www.addaction. org.uk) warned that while the faltering economy could lead to drug-users cutting back on their intake, it could also see dealers widening the area they operated in to more fringe areas.
"If someone uses drugs recreationally, they may cut back on the amount they spend on drugs and therefore cut back on the amount they're using each week," said a spokesman.
"Some regular cocaine-users, for example, may even experience slight withdrawal symptoms or recognise that they are dependent on drugs.
"We suspect that there may be a rise in the amount of 'small' drug deals taking place – with dealers offering smaller quantities at a reduced price. To keep their profits up, dealers may look at increasing their number of 'clients' by dealing to a wider geographical area or in different locations."
The charity also warned that the increasing number of people seeking help to end their addiction could put pressure on services at a time when they too were facing funding issues.
"Many of our services are used to their funding being cut, but as we often stick to 'fixed funding' each year, it's April that we expect to see an impact of the recession."
In Devon and Cornwall, there was an 11 per cent rise in drug offences between March 2007 and March last year, the last period for which statistics are available.
This was attributed to the increased use of warnings for cannabis possession.