Swansea’s top officer not surprised by drug-use figures in wake of damning report

SWANSEA’S sorry position as top of the Class As when it comes to suspect drug testing has not surprised the city’s top cop.

Chief superintendent Mark Mathias was speaking in the wake of a damning report into the wellbeing and health of the county’s 229,000 population.

Among the grim findings reported in yesterday’s Post was the fact that Swansea is consistently the highest in the UK when it comes to positive testing for heroin and cocaine in people arrested for “trigger offences”.

Mr Mathias, divisional commander for South Wales Police western division, said the current system enabled people suspected of “acquisitive crime” offences including burglary, theft and violence — plus drugs offences — to be tested when they were arrested.

He told the Post: “The current national average for positive drugs tests is around 23 per cent, while in Swansea it is more than 35 per cent.

“The link between acquisitive crime and drug addiction is well known. Drug dependant offenders need to raise money to buy drugs and many will commit crimes such as burglary or break into cars to feed their habit.

“It has been well documented that Swansea has a drugs problem, and this is something the police and our partner agencies are tackling head on.”

The 60-page Health, Social Care and Well Being report said the total economic and social cost of Class A drug use in Wales was estimated at £780 million per annum — and drug-related crime accounted for 90 per cent of this.

In Swansea, said the report’s authors, 30 to 50 per cent of people misusing drugs said they had a mental health problem.

A total of 43 per cent of injecting users in Swansea and Neath had hepatitis C.

In 2009, someone died in Swansea from taking drugs nearly every fortnight, on average. And between 2006 and 2008, someone died from alcohol-related causes in Swansea almost every week, on average.

The report’s authors, who included Swansea Council, the National Public Health Service for Wales, Swansea University and the ABMU health board, said “tackling the growing problem of substance misuse” was one of its key priorities.

The report provided an in-depth assessment of Swansea’s economic prosperity, deprivation, health, housing, diet and sexual and mental health.

Perhaps its most shocking conclusion was the estimated 13-year difference in life expectancy between east and west parts of the city.

Swansea councillors lined up to express their anger at sorrow at this statistic at last Thursday’s full council meeting. But the report also found that recorded crime had fallen in Swansea by 37 per cent between 2002 and 2010, and said research showed that you could extend your life by up to 14 years if you took regular exercise, ate healthily, avoided smoking and drank below recommended alcohol limits.

Personal responsibility was key, said self-styled Post reader Health Realist, who wrote on our thisissouthwales.co.uk website: “Earlier mortality has nothing to do with deprivation and everything to do with lack of willpower and self-control when it comes to eating, smoking, drinking and exercise.

“Junk food and ready meals actually cost more than healthy food.”