Drug seizures hit record high in West Yorkshire

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A record number of drug seizures were carried out in West Yorkshire last year, figures reveal.

The National Police Chiefs' Council said officers across England and Wales are taking even more of the highest-harm illegal drugs off the streets and preventing them from bolstering a "multi-million pound illicit market".

Home Office data shows West Yorkshire Police made 7,097 drug seizures in 2019-20 – a record number, and up 17% from 6,046 the previous year.

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However, that equated to a rate of 3,043 seizures per million population – above the national average of 2,808 per million.

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In West Yorkshire, cannabis was the most commonly seized drug, which was involved in 74% of seizures where the drug type was known in 2019-20. This was followed by cocaine (11%) and crack cocaine (4%).

Drugs could not be classified in 15% of seizures, according to the data.

Across England and Wales, the number of drug seizures increased for the second consecutive year, reversing the steady fall seen since 2011-12.

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Police and border forces recorded 183,000 seizures, a 20% rise compared to 2018-19.

This was “mainly driven by an increase in the number of seizures of class B drugs”, such as herbal cannabis and cannabis resin, according to a Home Office report.

Deputy Chief Constable Jason Harwin, the NPCC's lead for drugs, said forces have also "substantially increased" seizure of the highest-harm illegal drugs over the past few years.

He added: "These drugs feed a multi-million pound illicit market and are a key driver in other serious crimes.

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"Working with the National Crime Agency and other law enforcement agencies, we pursue organised criminals involved in the drugs trade who often commit other major crime including serious violence, human trafficking and modern slavery.

"We also continue to work with public health bodies to seek to decrease user demand for illegal drugs and reduce harm."

Police forces carry out the majority of seizures nationally (92%), with most tending to be smaller quantities of drugs from individuals.

But Laura Garius, policy lead at drug reform charity Release, said this does little to disrupt the drugs market.

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"It begs the question of why police think detecting small amounts of drugs is more of a policing priority in 2019 than say, in 2016," she added.

"Criminalisation damages employment and educational opportunities, yet we know alternative approaches, such as decriminalisation or diversion, can result in better outcomes for individuals, communities and police and this is why we need national reform.”

The Home Office said the Government is "committed to driving down drugs supply in the UK through tough law enforcement, which is reflected in the increase in drug seizures made by police forces".