In the Media

Drug crimewave costing Britain ?15 bn a year

PUBLISHED November 27, 2006

Drug abuse is costing England and Wales more than ?15 billion a year through crime including robberies, burglaries and theft, according to Home Office research.

The criminal market in drugs, particularly heroin and cocaine, generates a turnover of more than ?4.5 billion, the figures show.

Drug-related crime, much of it "property crime" involving burglary and theft, accounts for 90 per cent of the overall cost. The estimated national bill has risen from around ?12 billion in 2000. The Home Office says each "problematic drug user" therefore costs around ?44,000 every year.

Problematic users ? chronic addicts, many of whom commit crimes to fund their habits ? are estimated to account for all but one per cent of the total costs. Recreational use by young people and regular use in older people account for the rest.

A decade after Tony Blair came to power promising to tackle drugs, and despite the hundreds of millions invested by the Government in drug treatment and the creation of the Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA) to tackle traffickers, England and Wales still presents a huge money-spinning opportunity for criminal gangs.

advertisementThe Home Office study also examined the value of the market in six drugs ? cannabis, amphetamines, ecstasy, powder cocaine, crack cocaine and heroin. This was put at ?4.6 billion for England and Wales and ?5.2 billion for the UK. The trade in what are seen as the two most dangerous, crime-generating drugs ? heroin and crack ? accounts for about half of the market's total value.

In the 99 per cent of the bill created by problematic drug users, drug-related crime is estimated to cost ?4.8 billion in fraud, around 32 per cent, ?4 billion in burglaries, ?2.46 billion in robberies and ?1.9 billion in shoplifting.

Health costs include ?198 million in in-patient care. Drug-related deaths are thought to costs ?923 million. It is estimated that up to 35 tons of heroin are trafficked into the UK each year. The figure for cocaine is up to 45 tons.

David Davis, the Tory home affairs spokesman, said: "This is the cost of Labour's failure on drugs, and it is being met by the public."

He added: "Labour must end their chaotic and confused approach and get an urgent grip on this problem. If not they will continue to betray people to a life of crime and misery."

Nick Clegg, for the Liberal Democrats, said: "This latest report should remove any remaining doubts that the current anti-drugs strategy is simply not working. Politicians need to have the courage to admit that we need a radical rethink if we are to stand any chance of winning the battle against drugs."

The Home Office minister Vernon Coaker said: "We are committed to tackling drug use through education, enforcement and treatment."