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Number of drug-drive arrests in Suffolk surpasses drink-driving for the first time

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Rising demand for drugs in Suffolk and improved roadside testing are behind increased drug-driving arrests in the county, police bosses have said.

Latest data revealed that the number of arrests for drug-driving surpassed the number of drink-drive arrests for the first time in Suffolk last year.

The 672 drug driving arrests in 2018/19 represented a 20 per cent increase on the year before, while drink-driving increased by 11.3 per cent to 652 arrests, according to data presented to Suffolk police’s accountability and performance panel.

Tim Passmore, Police Commissioner for Suffolk. (13549217)
Tim Passmore, Police Commissioner for Suffolk. (13549217)

The county’s police and crime commissioner Tim Passmore said it was “deeply disturbing” to see that people were making a conscious decision to use drugs before getting behind the wheel.

“I think it’s not necessarily just county lines, but county lines come up because of a demand for drugs and I think society needs a very serious reflection on this,” he said.

County lines is where drug gangs from big cities expand their operations to smaller towns, often using violence to drive out local dealers and exploit children and vulnerable people to sell drugs.

“Driving under the influence of drink is bad enough, but now we’ve got drugs as well,” said Mr Passmore.

“We must not forget that some of these are prescription drugs, which people aren’t aware of. But it’s so irresponsible and selfish – it beggars belief that people do continue to drive under the influence of drugs.

“We have put a huge amount of money, nearly a couple of hundred thousand pounds, for drug wipes, which cost a lot of money.

“We have a very good hit rate with those that are stopped and tested.

“The message to the public is: If you think you are going to get away with drug-driving, you’re not, because we are on to you.”

For officers, many of the signs of drug-driving are the same as drink-driving, such as erratic steering or driving too slowly, but drug wipe kits have enabled them to successfully test for substance traces.

Assistant Chief Constable Simon Megicks said: “This year is the first time our drug-drive numbers are in excess of drink-drive numbers. That’s down to a much clearer ability to recognise drug-driving using wipes and send them off to the labs.”