Counting the cost: Gwent Police made more than 1,000 drug seizures last year

GWENT Police made more than 1,000 drug seizures in 2018/19 – but the force said the figure only scratches the surface of its work to reduce drug-related harm in the region.

By far the most commonly-seized drug was cannabis, a Class-B controlled substance. Officers confiscated the drug 733 times in 2018/19, seizing 12kg of herbal cannabis, 1kg of resin (hash), and more than 1,400 plants.

Among Class-A drugs, which attract the most severe punishments for possession and supply, Gwent Police seized cocaine 80 times, heroin 69 times, crack cocaine 30 times, and Ecstasy (MDMA) 12 times in 2018/19.

Seizures can vary greatly in size, from small amounts linked to simple possession offences to drugs recovered in raids on properties following a tip-off.

Vast quantities of drugs are also confiscated at the culmination of complex investigations into organised criminal groups.

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And sometimes, the numbers of seizures – or the quantities of drugs seized – don’t tell the full story.

Earlier this autumn, seven drug dealers were jailed for a total of 61 years for their roles in a “sophisticated and determined” Class-A drugs ring, dubbed the “Goshi line” conspiracy.

They were tracked by Gwent Police over an eight-and-a-half month period in 2018 and 2019, moving an estimated quantity of between 13 and 26 kilograms of drugs through the city.

When the police swooped in to arrest the conspirators last July, they seized 355 grams of heroin and 16 grams of crack cocaine – a substantial amount, but secondary to the months of surveillance and investigations that went into building a case against the seven men, and eventually securing them lengthy prison sentences.

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“Looking at seizures alone doesn’t reflect the quantity of drugs that are seized in any one year,” Detective Chief Inspector Justin O’Keefe said. “Some seizures are more significant than others, often resulting in multiple arrests, with organised crime groups being disrupted, which has a far wider and long-term impact.

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“Such groups often exploit children and vulnerable people, and therefore tackling county lines is key to protecting those at risk in our communities.”

Recent years have also seen Gwent Police focus more on supporting people with drug addictions, and turning them away from funding their habits through criminality.

In September, the UK government said regular users of the most addictive Class-A drugs – heroin, cocaine, and crack cocaine – were estimated to commit around 45 per cent of all “acquisitive crime” such as theft.

“We signpost people to support agencies who can help them and also assist our partners with programmes and initiatives within the community,” DCI O’Keefe said. “It’s important that we work together with others to look at the overall issue of illegal drug use, not just enforcement, in order to provide long-term solutions.”

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