‘No obvious link’ between Hackney’s drug markets and an increase in violence, report finds

13 November meeting of Living in Hackney Scrutiny commission; Cllr Sharon Patrick pictured centre, with Cllr Ian Rathbone (R).

An assessment of the illegal drugs market by Hackney’s community safety partnership (CSP) has found ‘no obvious link’ between drug markets and increases in violence.

The findings stand in stark contradiction to claims made earlier this year by the National Crime Agency (NCA) that drug activities “are in part fuelling the surge in violent crime in London”.

The report was presented as part of the CSP’s strategic assessment, in an updated analysis of drug and substance misuse.

It reads: “No obvious link was found between drug markets and an increase in violence, other than some violence stemming from disagreements over money or drug deals.

“One possibility is that markets are so lucrative that violence and tensions between dealers/suppliers is non-existent.

“There was evidence that independent dealers were supporting each other at certain locations.”

The report went on to suggest that a clamp down on drug supply and dealing could lead to a “pinched” market, and from there to tension and violence.

Workshops held by the CSP found evidence of children as young as 10 being coerced into drug-related activity, with most attendees stating that drugs were “freely available” across Hackney, particularly around housing estates and in the night-time economy.

In a section on gangs and knife crime, the CSP’s report also warned of a rise in new gangs consisting mostly of 12-15 year olds, not linked to established gangs, which had formed in schools and on social media.

Serious violence has spiked recently in the borough, with six murders seen in Hackney in 2017/18 compared to two in the previous year.

John Coles, head of special operations at the National Crime Agency, was reported in the Guardian in July as blaming gangs’ drug activities for the spike.

Cllr Sharon Patrick (Lab, Kings Park), said: “The police earlier this year said that this increase in violence was due to drugs, but we haven’t found that.

“It’s interesting that that’s not been the problem here – drugs are not the issue, not for violence at least.

“Also interesting is that a lot of the violence is coming out of the night-time economy. People who support the night-time economy tend to say that everything about it is wonderful, and that there are no problems that come out of it.”

The NCA were approached for comment.

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