Drugs & Alcohol abuse

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The Health and Crime Forums have organised a joint operation to tackle one of the hottest social issues on the agenda - drugs and alcohol abuse. The debate is launched at a time of growing public concern in the proliferation of licensed premises across Wimbledon, while police figures suggest that under-18s in Britain commit more serious crimes, many drugs related, than anywhere else in Europe.

DRUGS CRIME COSTS MILLIONS

The current debate over whether cannabis should be legalised was given a new dimension when Chief Inspector Alan West, the borough liaison officer, revealed that thecost to Merton (a relatively low-usage drug area) up to £50 million a year in community crime. The figure comes from a police assessment of the market value of property stolen to fuel a drug habit. Mr West said that 60 to 80 per cent of Police arrested suspects were found to have been taking drugs at a probably cost of about £250 a week. The impact of drug taking was thus having a significant impact on our community life.

Peter Nash, co-ordinator of Merton's Drug Action Team, in an analysis prepared for the Forum, said 30 per cent of our 12 to 16 year olds had tried cannabis, eight per cent cocaine and seven per cent had experimented with Ecstasy.

He added that this was less than the full story since there was "a high level" of private drug use in Wimbledon, usually of cocaine, which was not reflected in official figures. There were demands from the audience for the authorities to put more emphasis on education and rehabilitation.

Michael Harrison, manager of a local rehabilitation centre, said he had empty beds through lack of community funds. If there was one bright spot in this gloomy scenario, it was an assurance from Mr West there was no evidence of substantial use of Ecstasy in Wimbledon's clubs.

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