THE value of cocaine seized by the Jersey Customs and Immigration Service has more than doubled over the past two years, it has been revealed.
According to Customs, the rise follows a worldwide trend and pandemic restrictions had little long-term impact on the drugs market. Preventing the class A drug reaching the Island remains a high priority because of the physical harm caused by cocaine and its links with violent crime, they say.
A Freedom of Information request has revealed that £593,000 worth of cocaine was seized at the border last year, compared to £261,600 in 2021.
Customs and Immigration senior manager Paul Le Monnier said: ‘While there have been no obvious contributing factors to the increase in cocaine seizures in Jersey, this increase does mirror the worldwide trend of increased cocaine seizures over the last two years.’
He highlighted a recent UN report showing that between 2020 and 2021 there was a 35% increase in coca cultivation globally. The report says that while the Covid-19 pandemic initially disrupted drugs markets because international travel was severely curtailed, and nightclubs and bars were closed, this slump had ‘little impact on longer-term trends’.
‘The surge is partly a result of an expansion in coca bush cultivation, which doubled between 2013 and 2017, hit a peak in 2018, and rose sharply again in 2021,’ the report adds.
It also highlights a continuing growth in demand globally and says the use of parcel and courier services ‘increased significantly’ during Covid-related lockdowns, as restrictions on passenger flights meant traffickers looked for a different route.
Mr Le Monnier said: ‘Preventing Class A drugs reaching the streets of Jersey and disrupting those syndicates that facilitate the importations remains a high priority for JCIS.
‘The impact of class A drugs entering the Island has many negative consequences, not only relating to the physical harm it causes to individuals and families but the drug-related acquisitive and violent crime that is associated with it.’
The total volume of cocaine seized in 2021 was 1.46kg, compared to 2.2kg in 2022, according to the FoI response.
Former Assistant Home Affairs Minister Gregory Guida, who served between 2018 and 2022, said the previous government ‘had a good handle’ on the issue of cocaine use.
More young people in Jersey were becoming involved with drug dealing, according to Detective Sergeant Jim McGranahan.
‘Based on intelligence, ongoing investigations and general observations, it appears that more young people are becoming involved in drug dealing that can also lead to subsidiary criminality linked to acquisitive crime,’ he said.
In January 2022, a teenager was stabbed over 20 times at the Le Geyt estate by two teenagers in a desperate bid to escape an alleged £1,500 drugs debt.
Last week, Alex Diogo Franca De Jesus (19) was found guilty of attempted murder following a trial by jury. Jayden Howard (18) pleaded guilty to the charge of the attempted murder for the same offence.
However, public health director Professor Peter Bradley said that a minority of teenagers between 16 and 17 had said they had taken illegal drugs, adding that he believed alcohol use represented a bigger problem for the Island.
He said: ‘We do have a general picture of alcohol and drugs use on the Island.
‘Alcohol use is the biggest problem area we have as an island. A pattern of substance use in different environments, workplaces or age groups is a level of detail we haven’t got.
‘There is drug use on the Island but it is very variable. There is a whole spectrum of drug use.’
He added that the ‘positive news’ was that the majority of young people had never taken drugs, according to recent health reports, which revealed that three-quarters of Year 12 students – aged between 16 and 17 – had said that they had never taken drugs.
Professor Bradley continued: ‘In the context of the impact on health and crime, alcohol is cited more than other drugs. It’s part of the culture in western Europe.
‘Jersey has reduced its alcohol use in the last 20 years. It was very high around the year 2000.’
Meanwhile, there have been five or fewer drug-specific deaths in Jersey each year since 2010.
Deaths related to drugs in the past ten years typically involve more than one substance, which can include alcohol and prescription medicines.
In March last year, the UK’s largest importation of cocaine in recent years was seized at Southampton docks. It had a reported potential street value of £302 million.