Beating the drugs trade is becoming more crucial as deaths from misuse soar, writes PERRY AUSTIN-CLARKE…

ANOTHER day, another drugs arrest. Earlier this week, police in Bradford stopped a suspicious-looking car in Undercliffe in the middle of the afternoon.

They won’t have been surprised to uncover £1,000 worth of heroin and crack cocaine, a number of mobile phones and £300 in cash in the vehicle.

The 25-year-old driver of the Volkswagen Golf and his 21-year-old passenger were both arrested on suspicion of possession with intent to supply Class A drugs.

It was a routine affair and certainly not uncommon on the city’s streets. If the case is proven and the courts convict the alleged perpetrators, it will be a very small victory in the war on drugs and drug supply.

In reality, police are struggling to keep their finger in the dyke and hold back the flood. Why? Because they don’t have the resources to do much more and, for those who choose to exploit the situation, drug dealing is a way of life.

They don’t question the morality and they don’t see it as criminal activity. So what if people die from taking drugs, they say – it’s their choice to take them isn’t it? Addiction isn’t a problem to them, it’s an opportunity.

If there was ever any doubt that the authorities are struggling to win the battle, the latest figures released by the Office for National Statistics should dispel them.

The figures show that drug-poisoning deaths surged to a new record level last year, partly driven by a surge in fatalities involving cocaine.

The official statistics show 3,744 deaths involving both legal and illegal drugs were registered in England and Wales in 2016, the highest number since comparable records started in 1993. Of those, 2,593 (69 per cent) – more than two-thirds – were classed as drug misuse deaths.

In all, there were 371 deaths involving cocaine, a rise of 16 per cent on 2015.

The ONS said rising levels in the purity of cocaine could be one explanation for the increase because estimates based on the Crime Survey for England and Wales indicated that the number of adults aged 16 to 59 using the drug in powder form had remained more or less the same.

The report said: “The National Crime Agency reports that there was a significant increase in both crack and powder cocaine purity at all levels in 2016, including user-level, which may partly explain the increase in deaths relating to cocaine.”

Although the North-East had the biggest drug use death rate in England, with 77.4 deaths per million population, Yorkshire and the Humber came in third behind the North-West, with 52.5 deaths per million. Wales also suffered a big increase.

Deaths by heroin and/or morphine misuse remained at a similar same level but there was a big increase in deaths involving fentanyl, which is 50 times stronger than heroin, with which it is sometimes mixed.

The figures prompted the senior detective in charge of investigations surrounding the supply of the drugs to West Yorkshire to suggest users were playing "Russian Roulette" with their lives.

Detective Superintendent Patrick Twiggs said: "The use of these substances came to our attention about six months ago following an increase in drug deaths across Yorkshire, Humber and Cleveland.

"Currently, 73 deaths are being investigated and a further 50 have been positively linked to the substance. Sixteen deaths have occurred in West Yorkshire.

"Our aim is to mitigate the threat this causes and try to stop the chain of supply coming into the country.”

One measure of the value of this misery to the drug gangs is the level of sophistication evident in some of their operations.

In June this year, a judge jailed eight people for their part in a Bradford-based drugs ring which effectively ran a criminal business supplying drugs to people in Castleford, 25 miles away down the M62.

Leeds Crown Court was told that for three months, until police smashed the organisation, dealers were sent daily across to Castleford carrying wraps of heroin and crack cocaine ready to supply the Class A drugs to customers.

Thousands of orders were phoned in on two “ring and bring” numbers and, if supplies ran out, couriers were simply sent over from Bradford with more “stock”.

Judge Simon Phillips QC, jailing the lead organiser, Liam David Rayner, for nine years, described the set-up as “pernicious.”

“The trade was relentless, day-in, day-out, involving the exploitation of individuals whose drug habits and addiction meant this was highly profitable for those involved in the activities,” he said.

Detective Inspector Ian Bryar, of Bradford Police, said the fact they had been caught was “further proof of what can be achieved when we work in partnership to take action against those who involve themselves with the supply of illegal substances.”

He said: "The supply of drugs is a scourge on our communities and we will continue to tackle it and bring those involved before the courts.”

West Yorkshire Police have scored many notable successes against the drug dealers, particularly in Bradford, but the reality is they will always be up against it with an increasingly creative, well-organised and cynical group of opponents and less manpower than they need to tackle them.

In April this year, during an event to mark the end of Judge Roger Thomas’s tenure as the Recorder of Bradford, it was revealed he had set a new world record for jailing the most drug dealers in a six-month period under Operation Stalebank.

He told the Telegraph & Argus the courts had particularly addressed the prevalence of Class A drug misuse and dangerous driving by young men in fast and powerful cars.

Judge Thomas said he did not enjoy sending people to prison but it was a question of reinforcing the court's dissatisfaction and sending out that deterrent message, hoping to stop other people doing it."

He added: "We are reflecting and reacting to what is happening in the community and the real world and these are two things that decent people in Bradford want to see resolved."

Amen to that….