Fewer drugs seized in Lothians as gangs targeted

Heroin seizures have fallen, thanks in part to the targeting of drug gangs. Picture: Sean Bell
Heroin seizures have fallen, thanks in part to the targeting of drug gangs. Picture: Sean Bell
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THE number of class A drug seizures across Lothian and Borders has plunged over a single year, new figures have revealed.

A total of 8.4kg of cocaine was recovered by police in the old force area between April 2011 and March last year.

That compares with 18.3kg during the same period a year before, while heroin seizures dropped 35 per cent from 25.1kg to 16.5kg.

Lothian and Borders Police and Central Police were the only now-defunct forces to record a decrease in the number of individual drug seizures over the year. The figures dropped from 4243 to 3966.

Across the whole of Scotland, the volume of seizures rose by ten per cent, from 26,693 to 29,509.

The elimination of some of the biggest drug gangs operating in the Lothians was identified as one potential factor behind the trend, while others welcomed the figures as evidence of declining drug use.

The figures, released by the Scottish Government, showed that 243 cocaine seizures were made in the force area in 2011-12 compared with 347 for the previous year. The number of heroin seizures also fell from 684 to 394 over the period.

A former detective with the force said that the successful targeting of drug gangs in recent years by the Serious Organised Crime Unit (SOCU) could be behind the drop-off.

He said: “These figures can be a case of swings and roundabouts. The more effort you put in, the more you recover. But if there’s less on the streets to seize then that will be reflected also.

“Quite a few big gangs have been put away or dismantled by SOCU. That will obviously have an impact. One big seizure of cocaine or heroin worth hundreds of thousands of pounds can skewer the statistics.

“I know that the force were focused in the last year on smaller community-type initiatives targeting low-level dealers causing antisocial behaviour. They are not going to have huge stashes to seize.”

The heroin seizures in 2010-11 were affected by the recovery of 17kg of the Class A drug worth up to £1.7 million in Sighthill in December 2010. It was the largest haul of drugs ever seized by a Scottish police force.

Former Hibs youth player Kris Brown, 29, was jailed for nine years in August last year for his role in the heroin trafficking gang.

The operation was one of a number targeting major dealers operating in the Lothians in recent years.

In Edinburgh alone between April 2011 and last March, six drug gang leaders were arrested along with five “significant group members”, four “lieutenants” and a further 49 gang members.

Labour justice spokesman Lewis Macdonald said: “The fall is encouraging. I’ve not seen any evidence that the drop is related to any decrease in effort by the police to target drug dealers.”

Community Safety Minister Roseanna Cunningham said: “Police are making more drug seizures than ever before by taking innovative approaches to dismantle criminal networks.”