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Why drugs-raid delight often turns to misery

  1. renegades
    Financial Times: 12.10.06

    [FONT=Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif]Taggart could not begin to do it justice. Over the past few days 500 police officers have battered down doors and snatched drug dealers from houses all over Renfrewshire and Inverclyde. More than 100 arrests have been made, thousands of pounds worth of drugs seized and a vast pile of cash confiscated in what is being described as the biggest operation of its kind mounted by the Strathclyde force.[/FONT]
    [FONT=Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif]Conventionally, after a huge police effort like this, the response is to thank the officers for their brave work, and sit back in one's armchair happy in the knowledge that the streets have been cleared of an evil scourge that ruins lives. Good has triumphed over evil. Credits roll.[/FONT]

    [FONT=Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif]Except that real life doesn't always work that way. Evil hasn't been defeated nor the streets cleared, and even as I write this, the thousands of heroin addicts who live in the area between Greenock and Paisley may be out, knocking furtively on windows, making desperate phone calls and sending their children out to find a dealer who escaped capture and can sell them a tenner bag.[/FONT]

    [FONT=Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif]Drug raids, to put it bluntly, don't tend to work in isolation. They look good on telly and help senior police officers reach targets; they reassure the public. They may stop a few clubbers enjoying ecstasy this coming weekend. There the benefits end, unless there is a massive input of drug rehabilitation resources to coincide with the raids (and there almost never is). Without that, undoubtedly successful police operations leave communities ultimately worse off, with more crime, more misery and more death.[/FONT]

    [FONT=Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif]Here's how it works. There will always be someone left in the area with heroin for sale, and that person, reacting to the age-old laws of supply and demand, will put the price up dramatically. He or she will take their tenner bags - usually 30% diamorphine - and dilute, or cut, the component of the drug down to 10%; or in some cases nothing. These they will sell to needy customers.[/FONT]

    [FONT=Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif]Several bad outcomes result. For a start, the safest part of the tenner bag is the diamorphine; it's the other component, the "bash" (talc, brick dust, codeine, even Polyfilla), that does the damage by clogging arteries. The more there is of it, the more unintended thrombosis there will be. [/FONT]
    [FONT=Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif]Secondly, whereas an addict might have spent £30 a day to satisfy their need, now they will have to spend £60 buying twice as much to achieve the same effect. To get the money, they have to shoplift harder. Therefore, in the short term, petty crime doubles and the number of people being imprisoned rises steeply.[/FONT]

    [FONT=Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif]Another consequence of weaker heroin is that it lowers users' tolerance to the drug. When new dealers move in with a new supply - as they surely will, under the rule that nature abhors a vacuum - they will cynically sell extra-strong heroin to people accustomed to weaker stuff. Inevitably there are overdoses and deaths.[/FONT]

    [FONT=Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif]Within a few months, things tend to revert to the old pattern. This is apparent if one examines what has happened in Dumfries. Over the past year, in the police operation Round Up, two major drug supply networks in the south-west were cut off and more than 100 drug dealers imprisoned. In the three months or so since, how much has changed? Has the town been rescued? Is there a template here for Renfrewshire and Inverclyde?[/FONT]

    [FONT=Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif]Sadly, Mark Falkland, the drugs education manager at the First Base agency in Dumfries, believes things are back to where they were before the raids. He estimates that the drugs industry in Dumfries - with 1000 users, and heroin sales of £30,000 to £40,000 a day - is still the biggest commercial turnover in the town, with the possible exception of Tesco.[/FONT]

    [FONT=Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif]His belief is that when the heroin dried up, 300 to 400 addicts were scared enough of the drought and the risks of overdose that they would have gone on a NHS methadone programme - had such places been freely available. Of those, maybe half would have been successful, a potentially great outcome. But in the south-west the wait to get on the methodone treatment programme can take more than a year, and the opportunity was lost.[/FONT]

    [FONT=Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif]When, in 2003, Stranraer was targeted in the police operation Emperor - snaring 64 dealers and four major drugs barons - the action coincided with the opening in the town of Turning Point, a drugs agency. In two months, Turning Point had 300 clients who went on to methadone; while a similar number migrated to Dumfries to get their supply. The market was therefore removed and Stranraer's heroin problem remains much improved. The key to success, it was shown, was to provide an alternative to users when the supply was cut off, otherwise what came in to take its place might be far worse.[/FONT]

    [FONT=Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif]The police are coming round to the realisation that however good they are, they cannot succeed without a multi-agency approach. The problem is, as another drugs worker said sadly, that the police are simply miles ahead of the treatment services.[/FONT]

    [FONT=Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif]It is now three years since Richard Brunstrom, the chief constable of North Wales, gave a lecture at the Royal Society of Edinburgh in which he told the story of how, as a younger officer, he had run the first major operation to clean up drugs in Mosside, Manchester. It had been hugely successful: large numbers of officers had put through dozens of doors and cleaned up the streets. Brunstrom said he patted himself on the back for the superb intelligence, and regarded it as a job well done. Almost immediately, though, the price of heroin went up, and much heavier gangs, attracted by the money to be made, moved in with machine guns. The guns have been there ever since. Brunstrom said he still had a sense of personal responsibility for the gun crime in Mosside. After this experience, he is one of the few chief constables openly in favour of the legalisation of heroin.[/FONT]

    [FONT=Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif]The evidence poses a dilemma, though. Should police just sit on their hands until sufficient drug rehabilitation treatments are ready and waiting? Logic says they should. But logic also tells us sufficient rehabilitation resources will never be put in place. Logic also says the legalisation of heroin, soon to be laid before parliament in a bill by Rosemary Byrne of the SSP, is a long way off.[/FONT]

    [FONT=Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif]Meantime, should ordinary members of blighted communities have to endure strutting drug dealers driving flash cars, who post their prices on the door bells - without fear of retribution? Duncan McNeil, MSP for Greenock and Inverclyde, last night expressed a sense of quiet satisfaction on behalf of his electorate - "they're pleased, the demoralised members of the community who have had to look down at their boots when they passed the drug dealers, who in the hierarchy are kings". These good people, he said, might be offended by the way drug abuse programmes operated and aware that a lot more needed to be done, but last night they were simply delighted. One understands the sentiment, but one also hopes their pleasure is not too short-lived.[/FONT]

Comments

  1. Alfa
    A very interesting story. Source please!
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