Heroin hauls hit record high

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The Independent Online
More heroin has been seized since January than any other full year since records began, providing fresh evidence that Britain is being hit by epidemic use of the drug.

In the first seven months of this year customs officers recovered more than 1,203kg of heroin, compared with 741kg in the whole of 1996. This year's total already exceeds the record 1,118kg seized in 1995.

About 20 Turkish gangs, who are concentrated in north London, are believe to be responsible for about 80 per cent of the heroin trade.

Heroin has gradually obtained a more chic reputation among middle-class drug users and there has been a resurgence of use in inner cities. There is also evidence it is becoming popular with clubbers who are taking it after a night of highs on dance drugs such as ecstasy.

As well as record seizures by customs, the number of people caught with heroin rose last year by 41 per cent to a high of 7,880 in England and Wales.

Unpublished figures from the National Investigation Service reveal that more than 1,203kg - with a street value of about pounds 100m - has been seized this year. Heroin in now the most common class-A drug.

Only an estimated 10 per cent of heroin being smuggled into the country is believed to be detected by the police and customs. The record seizures may be partly due to improved methods of detection, although there is no evidence to suggest any dramatic change in strategy over the past few years.

In the latest raid on 11 July, 230kg of heroin was found hidden in secret compartments in two speedboats transported from Turkey and delivered to a warehouse in east London. The boats arrived on a container vessel at Felixstowe 12 days earlier. Two Turkish men were arrested and charged.