Record number of drug drivers
arrested in Essex during lockdown
A record number of drug drivers were arrested in Essex during lockdown and research into the offences has confirmed, for the first time, the link between road crime and wider criminality in the county.
In May, officers from Essex Police made 331 arrests – an increase of more than 25 per cent on the previous record in April.
So far in 2020, the force has made 1,049 drug driving arrests – more than the whole of 2018 and already more than half the number for the whole of 2019.
Adam Pipe, Head of Roads Policing at Essex Police, said the huge rise in arrests during COVID-19 had really taken the force by surprise, describing the data as “incredible.”
He said the demand on his roads policing officers initially dropped when UK lockdown began, giving them more time to investigate potential drug offences and use their “roads policing noses.”
The force examined 750 drug drive arrests that were made in Essex between January and April 2020. Of these offenders, 271 (36%) had one or more previous arrests for a criminal offence.
Between them, this comprised of 4,619 previous criminal offences. The most common criminal offences recorded for the group included drugs, burglary, theft and violence.
Mr Pipe said: “These figures indicate how big of an issue drug driving is in Essex.
“With the roads having been quieter than usual and the number of incidents reported to us having fallen in the last couple of months, our officers have been able to carry out more proactive stops on our roads.
“This is not a case of more people drug driving. This is a case of us being able to identify more suspected drug drivers.
“We know that for many drug drivers, using drugs is a lifestyle choice, part of their daily routine and something they’ve done for years. But that is no excuse.”
He added: “We now have proof that effective roads policing will have a positive impact on other crimes. If we stop a drug driver, we then have the opportunity to disrupt other criminal behaviour, such as violence, which is a top priority in Essex.”
Last year, Essex Police teamed up with the Safer Essex Roads Partnership to launch a radical campaign targeting young drug drivers which involved months of research and planning, and even saw the team behind it spend time in a rehabilitation centre.
The ‘Is the high worth the low’ campaign, which included a one-minute film, warned offenders they are more likely to be caught than ever before. These latest figures emphasise this point further.
Mr Pipe added: “My officers will continue to be working proactively to keep Essex’s roads safe.
“If you’re stopped for any traffic offence and an officer suspects you may have drugs in your system, they will carry out a drug wipe test.
“There are more than 500 officers across Essex trained to use drug wipes so if you drug drive, you’re really likely to get caught.”