Drug offences up 44pc in Barking and Dagenham last year

Police carrying out a stop and search operation.

The Met says increased use of stop and search powers has resulted in more drugs and weapons being found in Barking and Dagenham. - Credit: Ken Mears

Drug offences rose 44 per cent in Barking and Dagenham in 2020, latest figures show.

There were 1,658 reported drug offences in the borough in the 12 months to December, according to the latest crime survey for England and Wales by the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

This was 503 more than the year before (1,155).

The increase has coincided with the East Area basic command unit (BCU) - which covers Barking and Dagenham, Havering and Redbridge - creating the Drugs Focus Desk, a "proactive and intelligence development team" targeting supply offences and cannabis factories.

The Met says the number of drugs supply and trafficking charges brought in 2020-2021 has nearly doubled from the previous 12 months.

There have been 433 charges, including postal requisitions and cautions, compared with 224 in 2019-20.

“One of the additional benefits of this increased targeting of drug suppliers is that offenders can also be arrested for possession offences only,” a Met spokesperson said.

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“This coupled with increased careful use of stop and search has brought about an increase by means of finding drugs when conducting searches.”

The ONS crime survey also revealed the number of possession of weapons offences reported in Barking and Dagenham in 2020 rose by 37 to 197 – an increase of 23pc.

The Met says this reflects work done by the violence suppression unit set up in the East Area - as in other boroughs - last year, which targets known crime and violence hotspots.

“In consultation with partners, proactive uniformed officers are placed to utilise their powers to suppress violence in and around Barking, which has regularly been a priority area for the BCU,” the Met spokesperson said.

“This is also coupled with work undertaken by the gangs unit to reduce gang violence and related activity.

“Stop and search is one of those powers whereby weapons - and drugs - are items sought.

“With the focused activity against violence suppression, search powers are carefully but increasingly used which has resulted in higher numbers of weapons, as well as drugs, being recovered.

"The East Area VSU in particular has a higher than most positive outcome, which contributes to the increased recovery of weapons and thus the increase in weapon possession offences."

Total reported crime in Barking and Dagenham fell 4 per cent overall in 2020, with decreases recorded in about half of the offence categories.

This included falls of 31pc in robberies and roughly 20pc in all burglary categories, as well as drops between 14pc and 21pc across all theft types.