Steps to solve drugs problem 'ineffective': Senior officer says police are only 'sitting on the lid'

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The Independent Online
THE POLICE are only 'sitting on the lid' of the escalating drugs problem and measures to seize the assets of convicted traffickers have not had a big enough impact, a senior police officer said yesterday.

Calling for the mobilisation of society in a series of partnership programmes, Commander John Grieve, the director of intelligence at Scotland Yard, said: 'A good day for the police is a day the problem does not get any worse.'

Speaking to a conference on drugs in London, he said: 'All the police can do is sit on the lid for you. It is education and partnership that will tackle a social problem.'

Mr Grieve said that the 'Draconian' Drugs Trafficking Offences Act, which allowed the courts to seize the assets of convicted traffickers, had failed to have a substantial impact, possibly because of the dissipation of profits further down the dealing scale.

He said that among the young, 'All the indicators are showing increasing prevalence, offers to supply, and knowledge.' But he added: 'You are more likely to be offered drugs for the first time by a member of the family or a close friend than by the archetypal stranger at the school gates. When parents demand we arrest the dealers, it is their own children they are referring to.'

Mr Grieve said drugs could never be kept out of the UK or major cities. Therefore it was wrong to look at external solutions and the answer had to be found in the mobilisation of communities to tackle the issues locally.

The annual cost to the community of drug trafficking and consumption in the country was about pounds 3bn, of which pounds 1bn was in London. Further costs were contained in drugs-related crime, including violence, acquisitive crime, 'clusters' of other crimes like vice and gambling around dealers, and money laundering. Between 6 and 24 per cent of burglaries were committed by drugs users, of whom between 24 and 41 per cent stole to support their habit.

Mr Grieve described one drug-using thief who committed 959 crimes to support a habit, including 600 burglaries, 130 street robberies and 220 thefts from cars; the man carried out an average of three burglaries a day.

'We have victims who refer to 'their burglar' having been burgled eight or nine times by the same thief, and him having been arrested by us over and over again.'

Last year, Mr Grieve caused a public debate when he told a police conference that society had to 'think the unthinkable' and consider controlled legalisation and distribution of drugs because other anti-drugs measures were not working.

Yesterday he said society appeared to reject that view. But he went on to outline the 'complex' arguments involved. 'Tobacco and alcohol are at least as dangerous and the costs to the community are more at the moment.'

He said society would have to examine the social effects of decriminalisation and the economic implications. It was also necessary to consider who would be allowed to purchase legal drugs: 'Who will be allowed to possess: the old, the young, those who can make choices?'