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Monday, 24 June, 2002, 12:52 GMT 13:52 UK
Drugs agency hailed by first minister
Jim Orr
Jim Orr: "Working a bit smarter"
The success of Scotland's drug-busting agency in fighting "the modern day plague" has been welcomed by First Minister Jack McConnell.

During its second year of operation, the Scottish Drug Enforcement Agency (SDEA) seized illegal substances worth 19.9m.

Hauls of heroin and cocaine almost trebled, the number of drugs criminals arrested rose and 73 drug gangs were disrupted.

Speaking at the opening of SDEA's new headquarters in Paisley, Mr McConnell praised the figures, saying they should act as a warning to everyone involved in drugs.

First Minister Jack McConnell
Jack McConnell: "Scourge"

The first minister said: "Combining the latest crime fighting technology with dedicated expertise and nationwide criminal intelligence, the SDEA has significantly strengthened our crackdown on unscrupulous dealers who heap misery on communities around Scotland.

"We are providing record funding to tackle drugs and deliver our drugs strategy.

"I am determined that every penny leads to progress on the ground, particularly for young people and their families."

'Spiral of abuse'

Mr McConnell revealed how he had talked to a number of drug addicts and their families during a recent visit to Aberdeen.

"The meetings were heart-rending and included me visiting a 27-year-old man who had wasted 10 years of his life on drugs after a spiral of abuse.

Coffin of young drugs victim carried out of church
"This is about people"

"It was a very difficult experience and brought home to me how we can produce all the statistics we like and talk about arrests and so on, but ultimately, this is about people, their families and the children of drug abusers."

The new SDEA headquarters employs 134 police officers and 32 civilian staff and houses the new Scottish Money Laundering Unit (SMLU).

SDEA director James Orr said the new building was a milestone in Scotland's bid to reduce drug-related offences.

Mr Orr said the seizures and arrests in the year to June were a result of "better intelligence and working that bit smarter".

The main achievements in the past year were:

  • 172 arrests for drug trafficking both at home and abroad, up 35% on the previous year

  • A seizure of more than 205kg of Class A drugs, which was an increase of 173%

  • The seizure of 1014kg of Class B drugs

  • Confiscation of six firearms, a fixed wing aircraft and 5.2 tonnes of illegal tobacco.

However, Janice Jess who helps co-ordinate the Grampian Addiction Problem Service, said: "I don't think the good work of the police and the SDEA is being backed up by the courts.

"We have recently written to the justice minister on this very subject. I am also concerned about the number of intravenous drug users we have in Scotland."

The SDEA was established in June 2000 and employs officers from all of Scotland's police forces.

Mr Orr said the agency plans to recruit a further 64 police officers from Scottish Executive funding.

BBC Scotland's Bob Wylie reports
"Something like 20m worth of drugs has been taken off Scotland's streets"
Jim Orr, SDEA director
"We are making a difference"
See also:

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