Holiday drug users can’t ignore the “direct influence” their choices have on violence in the capital, says Evelyn Akoto, Southwark Council’s cabinet member for community safety and public health, writes Sam Merriman…
According to government data, recreational drug use rises during the holiday period, with 52% of people aged 16-59 who admit to using party drugs such as cocaine saying they do so once or twice a year.
Akoto said that “middle class recreational users” are so caught up in their desire to have a good time during party season they ignore the impact their actions have. “I want to make it very clear that these people are having a direct influence on county lines drug dealing,” she said.
Southwark has one of the highest rates of youth violence and knife crime in the UK, and Akoto said the way these issues are discussed “has focused on young black boys for too long”.
She said: “Young black boys are painted as the villains but they are more often the victim. Because it is such a lucrative business young people are being indebted to gangs and forced to sell drugs around the country.”
Statistics from the Met show January 2019 saw the highest number of arrests for drug possession over the holiday period for over five years, with 3177 people arrested. The number of arrests for drug possession in the months of December and January each year is significantly above average.
Akoto thinks that in order to start tackling some of the complex causes of youth violence and knife crime recreational users should be “called out” and “need to realise where these drugs come from”.
Last year Mayor of London Sadiq Khan spoke up about recreational drug use saying: “We have got to make sure we take action among those young people who are involved in criminal gangs as well as those who are buying them at middle-class parties.”
Akoto points to people acting ethically in other aspects of their life by recycling or buying ethical clothing to show that the message surrounding recreational drug use clearly hasn’t sunk in.
She urges people to “think before you use recreational drugs this Christmas” and says that the police “need to crack down on professionals who use drugs too”.
“Please stop because you are contributing to the murders of young people on our streets, this is not a victimless crime.”