National law firm Stephensons has seen an 820% increase in people seeking legal support for intent to supply offences, between April and December this year.
During the coronavirus pandemic the firm has seen a rise in cases of vulnerable young people being exploited to move drugs between county lines as well as individuals producing drugs for sale in order to make ends meet.
The figures follow similar findings from the Office of National Statistics (ONS) who in October reported a 30% spike in drug related offences in England and Wales between April and June of this year.
The data from Stephensons, which compares the last eight months of enquiries to the previous eight, also saw significant spikes in people contacting the firm for assault allegations (up 400%), theft, robbery and burglary (up 150%), sexual offence allegations (up 133%) and police station visits (up 115%).
“While the pandemic has seen overall crime levels drop, there are still opportunities which are being exploited.
“The significant jump in intent to supply offences underlines the increase in proactive police activity around drugs this year but also suggests how organised crime groups and private individuals have turned to the supply of drugs in order to supplement income or offset lost earnings during a year of lockdowns and restrictions.
“One particular pattern we’ve seen is the continued exploitation of vulnerable young people in order to transport drugs between county lines. At a time when many young people are finding themselves out of work, the promise of easy money often lures them into this type of crime, often without fully understanding the consequences.
“This is mirrored in the rise of people growing and selling drugs like cannabis as an alternative revenue stream during lockdown. Often it’s their circumstances which has led them to that point.”