The number of drug seizures made by police in England and Wales rose by 21 per cent during the coronavirus pandemic, figures show.
Police and Border Force made a total of 223,106 drug seizures in the year to March 2021 compared with 183,646 the previous year, according to Home Office data.
A report, published on Thursday, described it as the third consecutive annual increase in seizures, “reversing a downward trend” over the decade.
It said a rise in the number of seizures of Class B drugs seems to have “driven the overall increase in seizures”, while there were also “notable increases” in seizures of Class A drugs such as LSD and methadone as well as Class C drugs jumpsuit.
Seizures of Class A drugs increased by 17 per cent (from 37,371 to 43,586).
While the number of cocaine seizures dropped by six per cent, the quantity of the drug seized soared by 161 per cent from 4,274kg (9,423lb) to 11,148kg (24,577lb) in the latest period.
The Home Office said Border Force had continued to make “major drug seizures” since the period covered by the figures.
This included on January 6 this year when officers seized 103kgs of cocaine – with an estimated street value of £7.5 million – that had been concealed within a container of 20 pallets of bananas at Southampton port.
Officers found four holdalls containing around 25 wrapped packages that tested positive for the presence of cocaine.
The container had recently arrived from Colombia on board the MV Maersk Bali and was picked after officers “identified an anomaly when it was scanned”, the department added.
Heroin was the second most commonly seized Class A drug, according to the figures. There was a 6% increase in seizures (from 8,769 to 9,258), but the quantity seized fell by 18% from 2,396kg (5,282lb) to 1,973kg (4,350lb).
Class B drug seizures rose by 21 per cent (from 139,129 to 168,332), with 95% (159,209) of these involving at least one form of cannabis.
Experimental statistics on new psychoactive substances (NPS) also published suggest a total of 2.12 million doses of nitrous oxide, known as laughing gas, were seized by police and Border Force officers in the year to March 2021.
This is more than six times the amount recorded for the previous period (312,220), the data indicates.
The number of seizures of nitrous oxide increased by 36 per cent, from 274 to 373.
The report said the number and quantity of seizures “should not be taken as an indicator of drug prevalence” as the figures can be affected by police activity and recording practices, as well as changes in the drugs market.
It added: “The coronavirus pandemic, and subsequent lockdowns in England and Wales, are likely to have affected indicators in this report, such as changes to the night-time economy and associated drug use, or changes in police and Border Force activity.”
The figures do not include Hertfordshire Constabulary, Kent Police and Staffordshire Police as these forces could not provide complete data for the period in time for publication.
Policing and Crime Minister Kit Malthouse said: “These seizures mean some nasty villains out there are nursing huge losses and probably can’t pay their debts. Good.
“Drug gangs ruin lives and dismantling their conspiracies for good means breaking their businesses and destroying their profits.”
Steve Dann, Border Force chief operating officer said: “Drug supply chains are violent and exploitative, impacting communities across the UK.
“These seizures send a clear message to anyone prepared to smuggle illegal drugs into the country that we remain committed and prepared to tackle drug supply chains.”
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