Cocaine was used by an estimated 875,000 people in 2017-18 according to the latest crime survey for England and Wales – the highest number in a decade and a 15% year-on-year rise. Cressida Dick, the UK’s most senior police chief, said: “There is this challenge that there are a whole group of middle-class – or whatever you want to call them – people who will sit round … happily think about global warming and fair trade, and environmental protection and all sorts of things, organic food, but think there is no harm in taking a bit of cocaine. Well, there is; there’s misery throughout the supply chain.” Her words echoed those of the mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, last week. He criticised people who took cocaine at “middle-class parties” believing it to be a victimless crime.
In May, the justice secretary, David Gauke, said middle-class people who take cocaine “should feel a degree of guilt and responsibility” when they see stories of teenagers being murdered in Hackney, east London. Drugs and gangs have been behind the spate of “street homicides” in London that have mainly involved young people, Dick said. There have already been 87 homicides this year, compared with 117 in the whole of last year. National statistics published last month showed a surge in serious offences such as murder, manslaughter and stabbings, helping to fuel concerns about violent crime. However, Dick said the picture was stabilising. “What I can report is that in the last several weeks, we have seen the rates of many categories of violent crime, I would describe as beginning to stabilise,” she said. “I mean by that they are definitely not increasing, they are indeed flattening, and in some categories they are reducing.” Dick said there had been “continuous reductions” in scooter-enabled crime since last summer – although there was a rise which she described as a “blip” in June – and that knife crime involving under-25s was starting to fall. There had only been one “street homicide” in July, Dick said: 18-year-old Latwaan Griffiths died of stab wounds after being dropped off at hospital in Camberwell, south London, by a moped rider. Dick made violent crime her priority when she became commissioner. Since she set up the violent crime task force in April, it has made more than 500 arrests and taken more than 200 knives and offensive weapons, and13 firearms, off the streets. She said the Met had conducted more than 10,000 weapon sweeps since April, yielding 1,200 knives, 140 firearms and 450 other offensive weapons. She said 74 people had been charged and 123 arrested in relation to the 87 homicides this year. Dick defended stop and search, which is controversial for its disproportionate use against black people, saying it had led to more than 200 of the arrests made by the task force.