London has a cocaine problem bigger than that of Europe’s next three largest cocaine-consuming cities combined, according to an analysis by King’s College London.
Forensic scientists at the London university undertook a study of wastewater in cities across Europe, analysing it for the compound produced when the body breaks down cocaine, benzoylecgonine.
The study, seen by Sky News, revealed that Londoners consume 23kg (51lbs) of the Class A drug every day, more than half a million doses. The research estimates that London’s cocaine market has a street value of £1 billion.
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What researchers found was that unlike cocaine-users in Continental Europe, Londoners are significant weekday users of the drug. Dr Leon Barron, a forensic scientist at King’s College London, told the broadcaster there was only a slight rise from the weekdays to the weekend, “so cocaine is an everyday drug in London”.
In October, Prime Minister Boris Johnson blamed the “bourgeoisie” middle classes for fuelling the drug trade, where dealers often coerce minors into dealing drugs for them through “County Lines” crime, which is in turn leading to a rise in knife crime.
County Lines networks are based in cities, with dealers sending teens to the suburbs and smaller towns to sell drugs. The drug-dealing networks are named for the mobile phone “deal lines” that users call to make orders.
The prime minister said: “We are committed to rolling up the evil County Lines drugs gangs. The evil County Lines drugs gangs which predate on young kids and send them to die in the streets to feed the cocaine habits of the bourgeoisie.”
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While London has a massive cocaine problem, the British capital is not the biggest cocaine-consuming city in Europe — or even the United Kingdom, per head of population.
The south-western city of Bristol was recently found to be one of the top destinations for young drug dealers coming from London, and in March the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction named Bristol as the cocaine capital of Europe — and the King’s College research supports that assertion.
The study put Bristol as having more users of cocaine per head of population than 74 other European cities analysed.
In December 2018, Bristol Crown Court found four drug dealers from London and Bristol guilty of murdering a rival. Korie Hassan, 26, Leon Eaton, 37, Jordan Parker, 23, and Yonis Diblawe, 24, were jailed for life for stabbing Yasin Ahmed, 21, to death.
Following the murder, police recovered bladed weapons including so-called “zombie knives” and a machete.
Tony Saggers, the former chief of drugs threat at the National Crime Agency (NCA), told Sky News: “I would say London has got to the point of saturation.
“The demand has gone up, the price has stayed stable, people are able to lay their hands on it freely, readily… but I would say, yeah, the other cities are catching up.”
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