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Revealed - Drug offences rise in Suffolk during lockdown

PUBLISHED: 07:30 18 June 2020

The number of drug offences recorded in Suffolk has risen during the coronavirus lockdown 
Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

The number of drug offences recorded in Suffolk has risen during the coronavirus lockdown Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

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The number of drug crimes recorded by Suffolk police in the county has risen by nearly 32% during the coronavirus lockdown, it has been revealed.

A Freedom of Information request revealed the number of drug offences recorded by Suffolk police between March 23 - the day the lockdown came into force - and May 25 this year was 365.

The figure for the same period in 2019 was just 277, an increase of nearly 100.

Police forces throughout England and Wales have released data suggesting the number of drug-related offences in both countries rose by 27% during lockdown - despite total recorded crime dropping by a quarter.

The data revealed thousands more crimes linked to banned substances were recorded by police in England and Wales between March 23 and May 25 than in the same nine-week period last year.

In England and Wales, there was a total of 25,665 drugs offences recorded during this period among the 26 police forces that responded to the request.

The latest total national figures for all crime reported by the National Police Chiefs’ Council showed a 25% drop in England and Wales in the four-week period to May 10.

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Patricia O’Brien, chairman of the Police and Crime Joint Committee at Suffolk County Council, described the increase in drug offences reported by Suffolk police as “disappointing”.

Peter Gardiner, vice-chairman of the panel, attributed the rise in cases to police locking down on drug crime during the lockdown.

He also said county lines drug gangs have continued to operate over the last few months and believed the reduced timetable for public transport played a factor.

Gangs expert Professor Simon Harding, University of West London, had previously suggested that drug dealers were dressing as joggers and using fake NHS ID badges to move around freely.

Mr Gardiner said: “It’s easier to pick up when there are less people about. It will stand out and is much more obvious.

“Because the drug dealers rely on this to make money, they will be out on the streets.

“It gives the police more evidence.

“I know the police have been picking up on drug-related crimes at the moment.

“This may just be one of the small positives of the lockdown if the police are picking up on these crimes.”


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A Suffolk safari organiser is back on the trail after lockdown. Philip Charles returned from six years working as a bear guide and researcher in British Columbia in Canada to set up Spirit of Suffolk in his home county. But the newly-formed business took a temporary hit when the coronavirus crisis struck. As well as safaris, Phil also runs photography workshops, and produces prints and home-made short books. He is a lecturer at Suffolk New College, teaching wildlife and conservation-based modules on the Suffolk Rural campus in Otley. Through his business, he aims to build a conservation-based economy connecting visitors with Suffolk’s stunning countryside both digitally and physically through safaris and lectures. “I spend most of my time on safari in farmland habitat on the Shotley and Deben peninsulas,” he says. “This guiding season for Spirit of Suffolk started early March and I had several safari bookings as well as two photography workshops planned throughout March and April.” Philip was just one safari into the season – with one urban fox tour under his belt – with the business really taking off when lockdown measures were introduced on March 23, which meant he had to ditch his planned events. Lockdown hit him hard on a personal level too, he admits. “I always thought I would be able to head out to the countryside still, alone, and with caution. But as lockdown measures were introduced I realised this was not to be the case. “On a personal level this was deeply troubling as time spent in nature forms who I am as a person in both actions and spirit. “From a business perspective initially it felt shattering as I could not operate any of the core elements of the business, and to have started the season so spectacularly well with an amazing first safari and superb urban fox tour I really felt bad for the guests that had trips booked and were now not able to take them. “As a wildlife photographer but living in central Ipswich I also felt limited in what I could do photography-wise.” But he picked himself up and started working on his website and social media strategies. It was a “joy” to provide a vital connection with nature to people stuck at home, he said. “Early on in the lockdown I started a project called ‘On the Doorstep’ in which I would spend a little time each day stood on my doorstep and photograph the comings and goings of people.” The project now forms part of a cultural snapshot of Ipswich in 2020 collated by Suffolk Archives. He also used the downtime to create short books. The two titles – Suffolk Wildlife - A Photo Journey, and Spirit Bear - A True Story of Isolation and Survival – have been “very popular”, selling both in the UK and abroad. They even received an accolade from veteran environmentalist and wildlife broadcaster Sir David Attenborough who described them as “delightful”. He has two more planned – the first of which is Bears and Hares, which is set to be followed by a collection of photo stories from the doorstep project. As lockdown eased in early August he was able to resume his safaris, initially on a two-week trial basis. The pilot proved very successful and as a result he was able to begin booking events again. “Although we are nearing the quieter season I continue to take people out who are keen on enjoying the beauty of Suffolk and its wonderful wildlife and I am personally excited for the beauty and joys of autumn,” he says. “People often purchase the safaris as a gift for someone else and this continues to be popular, as a birthday present or Christmas present that can be redeemed at any point in the future.” From October, he is also planning to resume his one-day photography workshops. “I have always loved showing people the wonders of nature, whether that be a grizzly, a barn owl, killer whales or an urban fox. I think the lockdown period offered a different appreciation for the things around us and I am ever so excited to be with people again and to be showing them all the wonderful wildlife of my favourite spots in Suffolk.” He has had to adapt the tours to ensure safety, but the changes are subtle and don’t detract from the main goal - which is seeing nature, he says. “I now encourage the guest to bring along their own drink and snacks and to also bring their own pair of binoculars. We do wear face coverings while in the vehicle and with the windows open to ensure ventilation. Such changes have been well received by the safari guests and we continue to have some great wildlife viewing.” He’ll be “forever grateful” to his customers and guests for their support and understanding during the pandemic. “Recovery all depends on the current status of local restrictions and the virus itself. I am hoping that a vaccine can be in place as soon as possible. As a fledgling business I have felt a hit, although the sales of short books has helped.” But he remains “positive and optimistic”, he says. “The only way is up,” he says. His hope is that Spirit of Suffolk will become a well-known brand. “I have long term goals of buying woodland for conservation and wildlife viewing and also establishing a small lodge where I can accommodate guests for taking multi-day safaris and tours. “For now I am happy to take things slowly and cautiously, testing the waters in certain areas as I continue to grow the brand and products that I provide. “It is exciting. I am so deeply passionate about what I do that I know it will continue to be a success.” Suffolk’s wildlife in spotlight as safaris get back on track