New figures reveal fewer drug seizures carried out by South Yorkshire Police during pandemic
Fewer drug seizures were carried out by South Yorkshire police during the first year of the pandemic, despite a significant increase in drug hauls nationally, new figures have revealed.
Police chiefs say a drop in calls from the public during parts of 2020-21 meant forces across England and Wales had more capacity to proactively police drugs crimes and disrupt illicit dealing and county lines activity.
Home Office data shows South Yorkshire Police carried out 3,773 seizures in the year to March – down 17 per cent from 4,531 the year before.
There were 220,000 seizures nationally, up more than a fifth from 2019-20.
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Policing and Crime Minister Kit Malthouse said this meant some “nasty villains” nursing huge losses, while Home Secretary Priti Patel praised the efforts of police and Border Force officials in their targeting of “the kingpins destroying communities”.
However, Release – the national centre for drugs expertise – said seizures have little impact on the availability of drugs, claiming people had no difficulties finding a dealer in a “resilient and adaptable market”, even during the pandemic.
In 2020-21, there were 4,543 drug crimes recorded across South Yorkshire, a 26 per cent rise from 3,619 in 2019-20.
The offences contributed to the 210,000 logged nationally last year – a record high.
Dr Laura Garius, Release's policy lead, said the organisation's monitoring of UK drug purchasing during the pandemic found more people reported an increase in consumption.
She said: “Just as we see with recorded drug offences, drug seizures reflect policing activity and priorities, rather than accurately reflecting drug market activity.”
Class A drugs such as heroin and cocaine were seized by South Yorkshire police 371 times during 2020-21, but cannabis was a factor in the largest proportion of all seizures – 76 per cent.
Variations of the class B substance were found in 2,850 seizures, with police confiscating 186,813 cannabis plants as a result.
Nationally, 71 per cent of all drugs seizures involved cannabis.
Dr Garius said it was the drug most responsible for bringing people into the justice system and called for its legislation, saying doing so would prevent the criminalisation of thousands.