Rise in drug arrests in 2018 as meth trafficking reaches 'alarming levels': CNB

·Editorial Team
PHOTO: Getty Images
PHOTO: Getty Images

The number of drug abusers arrested in Singapore in 2018 rose 11 per cent in 2018, with a significant proportion of new drug abusers arrested being under 30 years old, said the Central Narcotics Bureau (CNB) in its annual statistics released on Monday (25 February).

From 3,091 arrests in 2017, the number of arrests of drug abusers in 2018 increased to 3,438. The number of repeat drug abusers arrested increased by 12 per cent, from 1,842 in 2017 to 2,072 in 2018.

Of more concern to CNB was the number of new drug abusers arrested, which increased by 9 per cent, from 1,249 in 2017 to 1,366 in 2018. Of those arrested in 2018, close to two-thirds (876 abusers, or 64 per cent) were under 30 years old.

SOURCE: Central Narcotics Bureau
SOURCE: Central Narcotics Bureau

Global and regional drug situations ‘worrying’

Such figures come amid challenges facing drug enforcement in the Southeast Asia region, said CNB in a media statement on its annual statistics.

It added, “The global and regional drug situations remain worrying. Notably, the production and trafficking of methamphetamine have increased to alarming levels, and the market for new psychoactive substances (NPS) continues to evolve. There is also a push in some countries for alternative, liberal drug policies.”

Data from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) World Drug Report 2018 showed that Southeast Asia is one of the world’s largest methamphetamine markets, as well as the second largest opium and heroin market.

In particular, methamphetamine production and trafficking in the region rose to an all-time high in 2018. The UNODC reported that crystalline methamphetamine seizures in East Asia and Southeast Asia almost tripled from 2013 to 2016, reaching 30 tonnes. It also said that NPS production in the Mekong Region, and Myanmar in particular, has reached “alarming levels”.

According to CNB’s annual statistics, there was an 11 per cent year-on-year increase in drug abusers arrested in 2018, and they comprised primarily of NPS and methamphetamine abusers.

Those two drugs, together with heroin, were the three most commonly-abused drugs in 2018, with 93 per cent of drug abusers arrested abusing at least one of these three drugs. NPS, in particular, overtook cannabis as the third most commonly-abused drug, with 348 abusers arrested in 2018 (10 per cent of total arrested).

SOURCE: Central Narcotics Bureau
SOURCE: Central Narcotics Bureau

Enforcement efforts, drug law amendments

To combat such drug-abuse trends, CNB worked closely with Home Team agencies to mount intensive enforcement efforts against drugs.

Last year, together with the Singapore Police Force and the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority, CNB conducted 19 island-wide operations targeting drug traffickers and abusers as well as 1,575 operations at our checkpoints to intercept attempts to smuggle drugs into Singapore. It also carried out several major operations which crippled 26 drug syndicates.

CNB also noted that laws have also been enhanced to step up the fight against drugs. For instance, the amendments to the Misuse of Drugs Act criminalise contaminative acts that facilitate or promote drug use, as well as acts of endangerment. These include exposing a child to drugs or drug paraphernalia, or permitting a young person to abuse drugs.

The amendments also strengthen the rehabilitation regime for drug abusers, to provide better support in breaking the addiction cycle and reintegrating them into society.

CNB has also launched various social media campaigns and community outreach programmes to engage the younger audience and to counter misinformation about drugs. It also encouraged advocacy against drugs, by rallying Singapore youths’ participation in the Anti-Drug Advocate (ADA) programme and partnering organisations under the United Against Drugs Coalition (UADC).

It said in its media statement, “It is important to equip youths with the correct facts so that they are able to make informed choices, embrace a drug-free lifestyle and influence those around them positively.

“The community can play its part by speaking up fervently against drug abuse and spreading the anti-drug message.”

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