DRUG related crime in Bradford rose by almost 20 per cent in the past 12 months to 2021, figures from West Yorkshire Police revealed.

It was a year which saw a series of cannabis farms and trafficking networks dismantled - from the raid on a "large-scale" cannabis farm in Filey Street to seizing £1.3 million worth of cannabis plants in a week-long drugs bust in the Bradford East area.

The most recent data shows that between September 2020 and December 2020, there was an 18 per cent increase in recorded crimes relating to drugs offences. That translates to an increase from 589 to 704 crimes, including trafficking and possession.

The sharp rise in figures has left some local politicians asking whether enough is being done to tackle the social issues surrounding drugs, including increasing rates of “food poverty, overcrowded housing, the closing down of youth centres” and more.

And while there is concern, West Yorkshire Police moved to reassure the public that there is lots of “proactive work” happening behind the scenes.Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Some of the cannabis plants that were seized as part of Operation Engage in the Bradford East area. (February 1, 2021)Some of the cannabis plants that were seized as part of Operation Engage in the Bradford East area. (February 1, 2021)

Detective Chief Inspector Andy Farrell, of Bradford District Police, said: “There has been a 19.8 per cent increase in drug related crime in Bradford, which includes trafficking and possession crimes. There is a significant amount of proactive work ongoing across the Bradford District over the past few years to tackle serious and organised crime, which is often linked to drug supply and trafficking in communities.

“NPT teams work alongside detectives and specialist officers in the Programme Precision team to tackle these crimes. Detection of a lot of drugs offences is reliant on proactive operations conducted by police officers, as well as working on intelligence give to the police by the community.

“Community intelligence plays a vital role in the fight against drug crime in our District. We always act on intelligence given to us and this often results in multiple arrests and drugs seizures during pre-planned operations to disrupt and dismantle any organised criminality.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Forensic officers at the scene of the Filey Street cannabis farm bustForensic officers at the scene of the Filey Street cannabis farm bust

"Illegal use and trafficking of controlled drugs can have a devastating impact on our communities and can also contribute to other crimes such as anti-social behaviour and violence."

Which area of Bradford received the highest reports of ‘drugs’?

Analysis of data from Police.uk showed that Bradford East received the highest reports of ‘drugs’ out of the district's six Neighbourhood Policing Teams (NPTs). Unlike West Yorkshire Poice's data, this only includes offences related to possession, supply and production.

The high crime rates for drugs in Bradford East have long been on the force's radar, it said, with a dedicated team focusing on "organised criminality".

DCI Farrell added: "In Bradford East, there has been a dedicated team focusing on organised criminality in the ward area and a multiagency response was launched at the end of last year which is a partnership approach to tackling crime in the community.

“In recent weeks, there has been a significant amount of cannabis farms disrupted and dismantled in Bradford East alone; one of the recent seizures of cannabis with a street value of £1.5million."

In October 2020, as a crack cocaine and heroin dealer was sentenced at Bradford Crown Court, Recorder Margia Mostafa stated that many teachers in the area felt insecure, with staff at one primary school carrying phones and whistles and leaving before nightfall.

A community impact survey on school pupils revealed their belief that drug dealing was the worst problem in the area, while parents feared their children would be groomed by the trafficking gangs.

Cllr David Ward (Lib Dem & Ind, Bolton and Undercliffe) said: "It is and has always been a concern. Residents regularly report seeing drug dealing taking place and often the accusation is that the police aren't doing anything or don't do anything when it is reported. As a local Councillor and formerly as an MP , I know how seriously the police take this issue and when I was an MP I went out in the evenings with them to see what action they were taking and even went with them on drug raids.

"There seems to have been a disturbing increase in crime during the pandemic and the police will be trying to find out why. I have expressed concerns about the increased vulnerability of young people who have fallen out of the school system but also the impact that increasing debt following lost employment may have on those who are tempted into crime out of desperation.

"Fear of reporting is less of an issue than, unfortunately, a view that it is not worth reporting because nothing will happen. This is not the case but it is a perception."

While Bradford East ranked top with 853 reports of 'drugs', Bradford West followed with 546.

Naz Shah MP (Labour, Bradford West) said: "It is worrying to see a rise in drug-related crime in Bradford. It is important that we support the police in cracking down on criminals that destroy our society and way of life. We must be tough of crime but even tougher in rooting out the causes that lead many young people into this way of life.

"Better education on the consequences of crime and providing role models to young people is one way to tackle these issues. But without tackling the inequalities in society and providing opportunities to young people, it will be difficult to reach lower levels of crime.

"Higher levels of youth employment, food poverty, overcrowded housing, the closing down of youth centres, the lack of job opportunities are all factors that lead to higher rises in crime. We need a new model in Bradford based on investment and opportunity to provide better avenues for young people’s futures and to take them away from crime."

Across the remaining NPTs, there were 468 'drugs' records at Bradford South, 250 at Shipley, 232 at Bradford City and 225 at Keighley.

Philip Davies (Conservative, Shipley) said: “Drugs are not only devastating for the lives of the people taking them, and their families who have to live with it, but are also a blight on the local community and a key driver of crime.

"My constituents do raise the issue of drug taking and drug dealing in their local community and that has certainly increased over recent years. I raise this issue regularly with West Yorkshire Police and I know they take it just as seriously as me."

Report a crime

Anyone who has information about drugs supply in their communities can contact the police via 101 or online via www.westyorkshire.police.uk/contactus. Information can also be passed anonymously to Crimestoppers via 0800 555 111 or crimestoppers-uk.org