Crack epidemic driving crime in London Evening Standard today

Backdated from previous BA website

Crack epidemic driving crime in London By Sam Lyon, Evening Standard 26 October 2004 The crack crisis facing the capital is “spiralling out of control”, an Evening Standard investigation reveals today. In only two years the number of crack addicts who spend ??300 a day feeding their habit has more than doubled.

Crack epidemic driving crime in London
By Sam Lyon, Evening Standard
26 October 2004

• Drug trapped me and tore my family apart

Police believe crack addicts were responsible for about a third of London’s recorded crime last year – and there is a growing problem of female addicts selling sex for as little as £30.

One anti-drugs campaigner said: “Crack is one of the most dangerous drugs. It drops you down into a bottomless pit – it’s so destructive. The problem is now spiralling out of control.” The explosion in the number of addicts has been fuelled by a dramatic drop in the price of a rock of the drug, which has plunged from £20 in 2002 to ?7.

Commander Stephen James, head of the Met’s drugs directorate, called the rise in the number of addicts “a worrying trend”. He said: “There are hotspots all over the capital. There’s a significant amount of crack-related crime – and that crime can be violent.”

He said addicts of the drug were committing at least 350,000 of the more than one million crimes recorded in London last year – equivalent to almost one crime a minute.

New figures show 50 per cent of people arrested in London for theft and drug offences tested positive for crack last month. In some areas, including Bloomsbury and Covent Garden, the figure is as high as 60 per cent. Five years ago only one in 10 criminals would have tested positive for the drug.

Harry Fletcher, assistant general secretary of the National Association of Probation Officers, said: “The more desperate they get the more violent their crimes become. Even if the level of addiction is not an epidemic, the crime level certainly is.” Police warn that it will be “a long time” before there is any improvement in the situation. Mr James said: “Last year we closed down 500 smoking houses, where crack is used and abused and we are on target to do the same this year. But we will not see instant results.”

The way in which crackhouses double as brothels was illustrated when police raided an address in Walker House, in Camden’s Somers Town council estate, to find it littered with used condoms.

An anti-social behaviour order was imposed on the owner banning all but his immediate family and police from the flat in an attempt to prevent it becoming a centre for dealing again.

Inner-city boroughs such as Camden, Westminster, Lambeth, Haringey, Islington and Hackney have been worst hit by the crack crisis, with police identifying hotspots in Bloomsbury, Covent Garden, Soho and Camden Town.

Jim Murray, chairman of the Bloomsbury Association, which represents residents and businesses, claims the crack market is sustained by 22 council-owned hostels in the area.

“All the crack action here takes place in the Bloomsbury Triangle of Endell Street, Southampton Row and Endsleigh Gardens. It’s out of control,” he said. “Last night I saw one dealer selling to 12 people on the corner.”

Treatment facilities are struggling with the rapid increase in addicts – whose chaotic behaviour and manic cravings cannot be treated with obvious substitutes in the way that methadone is used for heroin addiction.

MPs today criticised the Government’s national strategy to fight crack, launched by the Home Office in December 2002. James Clappison, a member of the Commons home affairs select committee, said the policy had failed to combat the easy availability of the drug.

“If the price is dropping this is clear evidence supply is not being dealt with. It is wholly unacceptable,” he said. “Failed policies are putting strains on already overstretched resources.”

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