Cardiff faces drugs epidemic during COVID lockdown.
(Photo Credit: Marco Verch & Geograph)

Cardiff faces drug crime epidemic during Covid lockdowns

Drug crime figures reached a five-year high during 2020 – up 12% from last year.

DRUG crime figures in Cardiff have reached a five-year high in lockdown, official figures from South Wales Police reveal.

Cardiff saw 1,960 drug crimes recorded in 2020 – equating to a 12% rise since lockdown started last March.

Despite lockdown keeping vast portions of the population off the streets, drug-related stop and search is also up compared to the previous year with 4,971 searches carried out in 2020.

Covid may have taken its toll on many industries, but the Cardiff drugs trade is booming with some drug dealers moving online and other finding novel ways to continue their trade.

“You can order drugs faster than Domino’s,” said Steph (whose name has been changed to protect her identity), a 33-year-old drug user from Cardiff.

Steph had been clean for several years, but says she fell back into drug use during lockdown.

“Before, it was just once in a blue moon type scenario but its lockdown – it’s been a tough year. Now, I’ve started using again once or twice a month just to have the buzz and the feeling of being out socialising.”

According to official data, South Wales Police has seen record numbers of drug crime this year, with peaks of activity erupting around lockdown periods.

Despite strict lockdown measures in Wales, local dealers are finding ways around it.

Steph claims that many drug dealers have now stopped dealing at night, instead making deliveries during the day to blend in with other traffic. Other reports have highlighted that dealers have been using electric scooters to peddle drugs on the street.

“Social media is blatant if you look properly. I know some friends who have just done £4,000 on coke in six days,” she said.

“There’s dealers everywhere where I used to live,” she said. “There was so many dealers it was ridiculous. I don’t know how they make money with so many people selling it in a small area.

“In my old place I had someone selling coke opposite me, a weed runner a few doors down, and a heroin dealer in the other direction. It was constant traffic of cars and people as we lived in a dead end.”

The five areas of Cardiff with the highest number of drug crimes are included below. During 2020, some areas, such as Butetown, saw a rise in drug crime of up to 31%.

Area2019 Drug Crimes2020 Drug Crimes% Change in 2020
Creigiau & St. Fagans210400%
Llandaff North1856211%
Pontprennau & Old St Mellons2315-35%
Whitchurch & Tongwynlais254060%

It’s not just drug use that’s increasing, either. According to Steph, the street price is on the rise too. That means more and more drug users are struggling to fund their addiction.

“The price has changed where demand has come in. It’s more expensive than ever and sometimes the quality hasn’t been great,” she said.

As the price of drugs increases, Steph claims that many drug users are becoming dealers to cover these increased costs.

“I’ve grown cannabis in the past to pay for my kids’ Xmas presents. I sold it to the dealer who lived opposite me, so it was easy money,” she said.

As lockdown continues, drug dealers rely on social media more than ever to run their business.

That doesn’t just include sales, either. Suppliers and dealers are now recruiting via Snapchat and Instagram to help with distribution for up to £100 a day.

Circulated among youngsters on Snapchat, such messages aims to recruit teenagers into running drugs for county lines gangs who move drugs from one area to another – often across police or local authority borders.

Meanwhile, South Wales Police remains committed to tackling drug crime in Cardiff.

“Our officers have been proactive in addressing community concerns and targeting drug dealers,” said a force spokesperson.

“Successful operations like Operation Crater have resulted in over 250 suspected drug dealers arrested in 12 months.

“In another operation, addresses in the Grangetown, Butetown, Splott, Rumney and Adamsdown areas were raided as part of an investigation by neighbourhood policing and organised crime teams.”

South Wales Police also increased drug-related stop and search by 55% in 2020. But just 23% of those stop and search incidents resulted in action taken.

“Enforcement activity like this shows that we can and do act on the information provided to us, and we will be relentless in targeting those involved in the supply of drugs,” the spokesperson added.

South Wales Police urges anyone with information on drug crimes in their area to call 101 or 999 in an emergency. Crimestoppers can also be contacted 100% anonymously on 0800 555 111.