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Cracking Crime Saturday, 14 September, 2002, 10:26 GMT 11:26 UK
Tackling crime's drug link
Drugs use causes crime to spiral, says Supt Josh Jones
Drugs use causes crime to spiral, says Supt Josh Jones
BBC News Online's Marcus George

In the second of a series of profiles for the BBC's Cracking Crime day, Marcus George speaks to a police officer in South Wales battling against the threat of drugs.
It was a heroic picture portrait.

A flying Welshman rugby tackling a suicidal man who had doused himself in petrol and was on the verge of setting light to himself.

But this is not the stuff of folk legend.

Superintendent Josh Jones of South Wales Police
Superintendent Josh Jones
Superintendent Josh Jones uses the example to highlight the personal dangers facing his officers every time they go on duty. And that day it was no exception.

"That was an act of extraordinary act of bravery by an ordinary police officer," says the operations manager of Rhondda Cynon Taff in South Wales.

"The courage of police officers never ceases to amaze me."

Over dramatic? Not really. In this picturesque corner Mr Jones has his work cut out - the creep of drugs in the community and its tragic aftermath.

'No other god'

"We had six deaths from drugs in June alone," he states rigidly.

"People addicted to drugs have no other god. It takes over their life and dominates their every waking hour," he declares factually.

He tells me of parents addicted to heroin who can only afford to feed their children with cereal.

He describes the desperation of a father who monitors his son's heroin intake just to guard against an overdose.

And this is happening to ordinary families in the community, says Mr Jones. As a father he feels their pain.


There is a need to draw a line on the issue of cannabis. But that line has been moved.

Supt Josh Jones
And then there are the side-effects. About 70% of crime in the area is the direct consequence of drugs use, he claims.

"Drugs cannot be separated from other crimes. They are inextricably linked to most other areas of criminal activity."

Guns, burglary, robbery and shop-lifting. The answer is not only in enforcing the law.

One third of the Rhondda Cynon Taff's wards have been marked as deprived and the Welsh Assembly are trying to address the issue through special funding.

Regeneration needed

One of these wards is Pen Rhys, an ugly concrete estate which looks down into the scenic Rhondda valley.

Some houses are empty, others wrecked. Their doors open and windows smashed.

The area needs serious regenerative action, Mr Jones asserts.

The economic degradation has left an unemployment problem and dependence on local authorities.

Educational schemes are needed to guide the region's youth away from drugs, he adds.

And support schemes for addicts, without sufficient cash funding, are struggling to cope with the demand for treatment.

Pen Rhys - one of Rhondda Cynon Taff's 17 'deprived' wards
Pen Rhys - a 'deprived' ward
Hundreds of addicts wait for places on the treatment programmes in the area.

The community is now mobilising against the threat. South Wales Police, in conjunction with Gwent and Dyfed Powys, have launched Operation Tarian to cut the supply of drugs into the area.

Regional newspaper, the South Wales Echo, promoted its "Dump the Dealer" campaign at the beginning of September.

'Legality myth'

In the face of pressure to relax laws on cannabis, the superintendent alludes to a contradiction in the fight against crime.

Cannabis is the point, he tells me, at which, hard drugs users begin their descent into addiction and he fears the change in the law will only provide encouragement.

"It is already a myth on the streets that it's now legal. This is a real risk.

"There is a need to draw a line on the issue of cannabis," he adds. "But that line has been moved."

Having spent 15 years climbing the ranks, Mr Jones remains a community officer at heart.

The South Wales Echo have launched a 'Dump the Dealers' campaign
The South Wales Echo have launched a 'Dump the Dealers' campaign
He is a staunch advocate of the "bobby on the beat" - the role in which he started his police career.

And he wants to see a reform of the criminal justice system to target people "who make a lucrative living out of being a criminal".

Like all bobbies, he was forced to earn his spurs. He has experienced violent football riots in Swansea during a derby against arch rival Cardiff 10 years ago and has been assaulted several times.

"Being a police officer is not a job, but a vocation," he says warming to a theme. Urging the public to support the police he tells me the overt criticism of the service inevitably affects morale.

But before too long, Mr Jones returns to talk about narcotics.

"We deal with crime, the symptom. If we deal more effectively with drugs we deal with the cause."


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See also:

03 Apr 02 | Wales
Drugs war to fight gun culture
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