Estimated 60% rise in crack cocaine users across Suffolk
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A supply led drugs market, where addiction is encouraged to boost sales, may have caused a significant estimated rise in crack cocaine use across Suffolk.
Aggressive marketing by dealers has been put forward as a possible reason for the sharp two-year rise in adults using crack.
The scale of crack use in Suffolk was revealed as a national report warned of an increase in addicts buying the drug cheaply.
One Suffolk expert warned the rise could have an impact on property crime, sex work, shoplifting and robbery as dependent users struggled to find ways of raising cash.
The county was considered to have experienced the most significant estimated rise in crack users of anywhere in the country between 2014/15 and 2016/17 – 60% – according to the Public Health Institute at Liverpool John Moores University.
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Public Health England (PHE) and the Home Office published a summary of findings from an inquiry into national trends, including that the rise was likely to have been caused by increased availability, affordability and aggressive marketing by dealers.
Evidence of ‘county lines’ drug supply operations varied across different areas, said the report.
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Opiate users increased by 77 in Suffolk during the time crack users went up by an estimated 654 to a total 1,751.
Dr Paul Andell, criminology lecturer at the University of Suffolk and co-author of a report on local drug related violence, said: “We interviewed ex-drug dealers who told us that the drug markets had changed in Ipswich and Suffolk to the county lines model we described in our report.
“This may mean a supply led market where new users are sought so that dependencies are encouraged to boost sales in an expanding drugs sales network.
“This could have a significant impact in terms of property crime, sex work, shoplifting and robbery as dependent users struggle to find ways of raising cash to pay for drugs.
“Some users could become indebted or desperate and carry out work for county lines gangs.
“The impact on service provision in criminal justice and treatment services could also be significant, which will need further public spending to cope with any increases in demand for public health services.”
Detective Chief Superintendent Eamonn Bridger, of Suffolk police, said it was a force priority to ensure the county remained a hostile environment for those involved in illegal drug supply, adding: “County drugs lines have a significant impact on towns across the eastern region and drive a wide range of criminality.
“Our objectives are to identify dealers of drugs and to disrupt and dismantle their activity, to identify those being exploited by their vulnerability, and to continue to work in partnership with other agencies and gain sufficient intelligence and evidence so those responsible are bought to justice and convicted.”
The PHE and Home Office inquiry highlighted the need to explore more effective methods of getting crack users into treatment.
It identified the need for more effective links from the criminal justice system to treatment services, through greater availability of arrest referral schemes and improved monitoring of rehabilitation requirements.
A Public Health Suffolk spokesman, said: “The Suffolk Recovery Network, operated by Turning Point, provides substance misuse treatment to anyone in Suffolk who wishes to address their use of drugs or alcohol.
“The service offers a comprehensive assessment followed by an individually tailored recovery plan, which may include clinical appointments alongside psychosocial interventions through group work and one-to-one sessions with a recovery worker.
“Often, clients who engage with treatment services have multiple complex issues, as highlighted in the ‘crack cocaine increase’ inquiry. Turning Point responds to this by ensuring that recovery plans capture these needs and offer the appropriate support.”
Turning Point has a team dedicated to supporting people in the criminal justice system through the ‘Drug Testing on Arrest’ pathway.
Recovery workers co-locate at police investigation centres to engage with people testing positive for illicit substances following arrest, while a dedicated recovery worker provides a link between the community treatment service and prisoners to enable support following release.
Turning Point can be contacted on 0300 123 0872. For more details, visit wellbeing.turning-point.co.uk/suffolk.