The cabinet minister is said to be keen for senior officers to name and shame some wealthy, “high-profile” users in a bid to shift the perception that some can take class A drugs without any consequences.
Chief constables have also been asked to target cocaine use at university campuses this autumn, with officials considering raids during freshers’ week to push home the message.
“One of the issues is that they don’t think they will ever get punished, that there’s no realistic prospect of the police pursuing them,” a Home Office source told The Times.
“This is a drive to make sure that people are being punished and others realise it. There will be high-profile arrests. We want to make examples of people who are held in high esteem but are fuelling ongoing crime and murders linked to the drug trade.”
Confirming the plan, a police source said: “We have been told to actively look for high-value individuals to arrest those who see drugs as a part of their lifestyle and don’t believe that there will be any ramifications.”
Ms Patel warned last month that recreational drug takers, such as middle-class cocaine users, would be targeted as part of a bid to tackle the class A drug trade, gang conflict and violent crime.
Warning that there would be more “drug testing on arrest,” the Home Office said in a policy document that the aim would be to “crack down on recreational drug use and ensure those who break the law face consequences”.
The government strategy is to change the “perceived acceptability” of taking class A drugs by making users aware of the link to gang violence and “exploitative and environmentally destructive” impacts in Central and South America.
Policing minister Kit Malthouse also said earlier this month said the new strategy will target recreational users of class A substances to “illustrate the impact” on different communities.
Former home secretary Sajid Javid said during the Tory leadership contest in 2019 that middle-class cocaine users should think about the lives “destroyed along the way” – viewed as a thinly-viewed swipe at rival Michael Gove after he admitted to have taken cocaine.
London mayor Sadiq Khan has also previously said that “middle-class” cocaine use has helped contribute to the violent crime among criminal gangs in the capital.
However, some experts believe that the focus should remain on targeting violent drug gangs rather than trying to name and shame users.
While drug-related violence has been linked to the county lines gangs, most of the violence is believed to be related to dealing in crack and heroin.
Journalist and commentator Max Daly said: “If the government want to do this they need to get their facts straight. No, powder cocaine use does not cause street violence in the UK and county lines dealing.”
He added: “However its trade, while a lifeline for some in South America, is highly unethical.”
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