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Last Updated: Thursday, 3 July, 2003, 12:46 GMT 13:46 UK
Breaking the drugs-crime link
By David Miller
BBC News Online in Leeds

If your car is broken into or your house is burgled in Leeds, the chances are it was by someone with a drug habit.

Police on drugs raid
The police regular raid the homes of drugs dealers in Leeds
Keith Lawrence, who heads the government's Leeds Drugs Action Team, estimates there is a hard core of about 500 criminals who are responsible for 80% of the crime committed in the city.

And the reason they turn to crime is to feed their drugs habit.

Conservative leader Iain Duncan-Smith announced on Thursday that his party would create 10 times as many rehabilitation centres to break this link between drugs and crime.

In Leeds, the hard core criminals are already being offered the chance to take part in drugs rehabilitation programmes.

I went on one raid with the police and we found one 16-year-old with 3,000 in his drawer
Fabian Hamilton MP

Mr Lawrence says: "These are the criminals who cause most disruption to the community.

"There is clear evidence that with the right support they can kick the habit."

Not all drug addicts are criminals though.

There are presently about 2,500 people in drug treatment programmes in the city.

Criminal background

One centre that runs these programmes is Multiple Choice which was visited by Iain Duncan Smith while he was in the city.

Most people who attend Multiple Choice are between 25 and 32 and have been using drugs for an average of seven years.

Project worker Soo Nevison has reservations about constantly linking drugs with crime, pointing out that only half Multiple Choice's clients have a criminal background.

She claims 90% of the people they treat achieve goals they set themselves over drug use at the start of the course.

What they also need is more support in finding housing and a job.

Ms Nevison says: "I have people who say to me 'If I had a roof over my head and a decent job, what would I want in turning to crime?'"

Local streets

One well-known centre for drug dealing in Leeds was the Hayfield pub in the Chapletown area of Leeds.

This pub closed in July 2002 after police objected to its licence being renewed.

Some local residents say all that has happened is that drug dealers have taken to the local streets.

But the area's Labour MP, Fabian Hamilton, says he is glad such a visible centre drug trading has gone.

Mr Hamilton says West Yorkshire Police are doing a good job in using surveillance and intelligence to target the big drug dealers although it is a continuous fight as the financial rewards can be very high.

"I went on one drug raid with the police," he said, "and we found one 16-year-old boy with 3,000 in cash in his sock drawer and wraps worth 100,000 in the house.

"He's not going to get that sort of money doing any other job."

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