Shropshire Star comment: Crime rate difficult to take

It is always difficult to know how to take news that involves an increase in the crime rate across our region.

Police Officer and Police Community Support Officer walk the streets of Oswestry..
Police Officer and Police Community Support Officer walk the streets of Oswestry..

According to the latest figures, drug seizures across the West Midlands went up by a fifth last year, and included significant hauls of Class A drugs such as heroin and cocaine.

On one hand it is good to see that police may well be getting better at disrupting large scale dealing operations, while at the same time taking dangerous drugs off our streets.

The downside however, is that the increase in seizures could actually reflect a booming drugs trade.

One thing we can say with some degree of certainty, is that our police forces are battling a wide scale problem that is becoming increasingly complex.

Take the fact that four in every five drug crimes involves cannabis.

While some people will insist that cannabis is a completely harmless plant, its production and distribution are generally linked with organised crime.

And the same individuals who are behind these criminal enterprises are also often involved in other serious crimes including people trafficking and firearms offences.

In recent years we have also seen an increasing prevalence of county lines drug dealing operations, which frequently involve children or vulnerable people being coerced into criminal activity by gangs.

It means that youngsters are being dragged into a life of crime, in some cases before they have even reached their teenage years.

The drug trade feeds a multi-million pound illicit market. It is also a key factor in other serious crimes.

However, it is right to question just how much of a dent are our police forces really making in the illegal drugs market.

Far too many people caught and charged by the police are handed pathetically weak sentences once they get to court, meaning in short order they are back on the streets to continue their criminal careers.

There also appears to be no shortage of drugs on Britain's streets, suggesting that forces may well be attempting to diminish an ever growing drugs pile.

To reduce drug crime we need to decrease user demand - but that can only happen if lengthy prison sentences are given out to those who break the law.

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