With drug related deaths said to be at record highs, the government is today launching a 10 year drug strategy for England and Wales.
The new strategy will combine greater investment in treatment programmes, both in the health service and the prison service, alongside a tougher crack down on drug supply. It also contains fresh initiatives on drug use at universities, and measures to seize drug dealer’s mobile phones and then send messages to their clients so to discourage anonymity when buying drugs.
Speaking on the BBC Radio 4 Today programme, the policing Minister Kit Malthouse championed how the government has already closed 1,500 so called ‘County Lines’ as part of its efforts to crack down on drug dealers.
He commented, “Drugs supply is basically an industry, it is a business, and they [drug dealers] reacted like any business would do, to a declining market share. They created a better product, they made it cheaper, they found new ways to distribute it by County Lines and we need to react to that as well”.
Continuing he said, “The fight against crime requires us to be agile. Criminals are ever enterprising in the way they do things and the way they bring drugs into the country, from where they come, the types of drugs, how they develop and distribute”.
Referring to the broad range of proposals contained in today’s strategy, Mr Malthouse said, “At same time as punishing people whose criminality is driven by addiction, we want to make sure they don’t go round the merry-go-round quite so often, and that means getting them treated, particularly at the sharp end, the heroin and crack addicts”.
There are said to be more than 300,000 heroin and crack addicts in England, with drug users said to be responsible for nearly half of all burglaries, robberies and shop thefts. The Home Office has claimed that drugs are responsible for nearly half of all murders and manslaughters in the UK.
Responding to the government’s proposals ,the new Shadow Home Secretary, Yvette Cooper said, “Ministers need to set out a plan which properly reverses the damage the Government has done, which stops communities being blighted by criminal drug dealing and gangs and which properly addresses the new and serious drug related problems that are emerging. We need action to tackle changing patterns of drug-related crime, including the huge growth in child exploitation and the explosion in online criminal drug networks”.