Police link 10 murders to crack-related violence: Investigators fear increasing use of 'Skunkweed' cannabis

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The Independent Online
TEN PEOPLE were murdered and a further 21 survived murder attempts during incidents directly attributable to the spread of the cocaine derivative drug crack in London last year, according to figures released yesterday.

Although police have been warning for some time of the links between violent crime and crack, yesterday's figure is the first time a specific number has been published. It was disclosed by the National Criminal Intelligence Service which is conducting a study into the links between violence and drugs.

Senior officers of NCIS believe that a number of crack-related murders and attempted murders may have occurred outside London, where they say the drug is increasingly taking hold, but have not been reported as such because of a lack of direct evidence.

NCIS said crack now accounts for about half of the number of seizures of cocaine at street level and 10 per cent of the total weight. Stuart Wesley, director (drugs) of NCIS, said crack-related violence 'continued to cause concern', but it was important to keep it in perspective.

According to the provisional United Kingdom Drug Seizure Figures, a compilation of police and Customs seizures released yesterday by NCIS, cannabis and amphetamines remain the most popular drugs of abuse.

Although cocaine seizures dropped in comparison to the previous year because of the distorting effect of two large seizures, NCIS said demand had remained high. Seizure of heroin and ecstasy continued to rise although LSD showed a slight fall.

During 1993, Customs officers seized 53,145 kg of cannabis, a rise of 19 per cent on 1992, while police discovered 5,600 kg, a rise of 21 per cent.

Mr Wesley said that drugs investigators were concerned about the increasing use of a new type of powerful cannabis called 'skunk', or 'Skunkweed', which is grown indoors using nutrients, rather than soil, and intensive watering. The active ingredient of cannabis, THC, can be as low as 1 per cent in ordinary cannabis, but as high as 30 per cent in skunk, inducing powerful hallucinations.

Although skunk is mainly produced in the Netherlands, around 20 sites have been discovered in Britain.

About 450 kg of amphetamines were seized by police in 1993 and a further 550 kg at ports of entry - an increase of 342 per cent on 1992. Most is manufactured in the Netherlands, although there are increasing attempts to manufacture the drug in this country; 18 illicit laboratories were discovered last year.

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