Drug tally takes its toll

standfirstINTERNATIONAL drug traffickers were dealt a "massive blow" when customs officials seized heroin worth £2.5m from Felixstowe docks. But does the staggering size of the haul really mean victory against the evil scourge?DESPITE the size of the last week's 30 kilo-heroin haul – the largest of its kind this year – the price of the drug in Ipswich will not change, say experts heading the battle against addiction.

standfirst

INTERNATIONAL drug traffickers were dealt a "massive blow" when customs officials seized heroin worth £2.5m from Felixstowe docks. But does the staggering size of the haul really mean victory against the evil scourge?

DESPITE the size of the last week's 30 kilo-heroin haul – the largest of its kind this year – the price of the drug in Ipswich will not change, say experts heading the battle against addiction.

The amount of the drug currently flooding the UK market means even the latest cache, will not affect local prices where a bag of heroin can be bought for as little as £10.

The recent seizure – hidden in car exhausts on a ship from Pakistan – comes just three months after a total of 14 kilos of heroin was seized in two separate hauls in Harwich. In March six kilos of opium were recovered from vehicles arriving in Harwich.

Experts warn pushers of the deadly powder are helped by heroin's changing image, from ghetto to glamour putting all sections of society are at risk.

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Brain Tobin, head of the Iceni Project a drug addiction centre currently running at a capacity of 60 addicts, said: "Heroin's image has changed a lot since the 80's when it was seen as restricted to the homeless. Now we see it being used across the social strata."

According to Mr Tobin, despite the size of the Felixstowe seizure, the local price of the drug locally would be static.

Mr Tobin went on: "Even though the haul is local, the heroin would normally go to London, Liverpool or Manchester to get cut and then, ironically, come back to Ipswich."

The majority of heroin, on sale on the streets of Ipswich in £10 or £20 bags, is diluted or "cut" usually with glucose though caffeine, flour, chalk and even talcum powder can be used.

Fighting the drug, already a priority for police and customs, has recently become the focus of a high profile media campaign.

Next Tuesday BBC 2 a 90-minute documentary graphically shows the harrowing diary of teenage heroin addict, Michelle Pickthall.

Cameras capture the 18-year-old from the North East slowly injecting the drug into her neck.

Earlier this year the mother of 21-year-old heroin addict Rachel Whitear who died from an overdose allowed photographs of dead daughter to be published in newspapers.

Rachel, from Exmouth, died with a syringe in her hand.

There are 40,000 registered addicts in the UK, though the real figure could be four times that high.

Custom's spokesman John Barber stressed the importance of a multi-agency approach in combating the drugs. He said: "We have a concerted strategy in place to tackle the supply of heroin at all stages in the supply chain from source to street. The Government has provided £4 million in anti-drugs assistance to key countries on the heroin route, and provided training and equipment to customs and law enforcement.

"International drug traffickers co-operate in the growing, manufacture, distribution and selling of their deadly commodity. In the same way international enforcement agencies like customs need to co-operate in

the exchange of their commodities - intelligence, information and skills in examination and investigation, to stop this trade."

* July 2000 Felixstowe officers swoop on 15kilos of heroin and 333,000 ecstasy tablets worth £4million in a consignment of toilet seats.

January 2000 Felixstowe's customs officers seize 207 kilos of heroin with a street value of £15 million– the largest ever haul of the drug – concealed in a consignment of computer monitors from Turkey.

January 5, 1999 Officers seize 150 kilos of cocaine worth £16million hidden in a cargo of soda biscuits and oil aboard the Sierra Express bound for Benin

November 19, 1998 Cocaine worth £20million weighing 207 kilos found in a consignment of jeans and shirts bound for Bibao.

October 1,1998 100 kilos of cocaine worth £8million discovered in a cargo of floor tiles en route from Venezuela to Togo.

June 20, 1997 200 kilos of cocaine with a street value of £25million arrives in Felixstowe from Venezuela hidden in cans of pineapple. Officers trace the drugs onwards to Siberia.

May 14, 1997 Cannabis weighing 9,500kilos with a street value of £32million is seized en route to Sierra Leone from Columbia.

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