TAKING “soft drugs” like cannabis and laughing gas has “become the norm” for young people in some areas of Bradford.
And others have started carrying knives to “look cool.”
These were some of the claims made during a discussion on crime in the Bradford East constituency – with one Councillor saying many in the area found it acceptable to walk around stinking of cannabis.
Bradford Council’s Bradford East Area Committee was given an update on policing in the constituency at its latest meeting on Wednesday evening.
A report to the members showed that while there was a decrease in crimes such as burglaries and robberies, the number of drug related crimes has risen by 21 per cent since 2019.
Despite cannabis use being dismissed by many users as being harmless, Councillors claimed it could have a major impact on the community – especially if people drive after using the drug.
At the meeting Inspector Paul Riley of Bradford East Neighbourhood Policing team said an increase in proactive police work to tackle drug crime was partly behind the rise.
This year there has been almost 450 drug related crimes recorded in the Constituency – up from 360 in 2019.
Insp Riley said drug crime was a high priority for the force, and action was regularly taken to tackle dealers and producers, such as targeting cannabis farms.
He said work to reduce crime also included visiting Year 6 children in schools to tell them of the dangers of anti-social behaviour and knife crime before they move to secondary school – where they may fall under the influence of older children.
But some members of the committee noted that there was a worrying trend of people considering drugs to be socially acceptable.
A number of Councillors pointed out that they would regularly come across groups of young people stinking of cannabis, with seemingly little concern about breaking the law in public places.
Councillor Taj Salam (Lab, Little Horton) was discussing violent crime, which has also risen, and said: “The problem is, I think, that nine out of ten of the people involved are on soft drugs.
“That is how bad it is – it has become the norm in the community. It seems to have become acceptable. It is bad, you walk around and it seems that around every single group you can smell the cannabis.”
He said knife crime was also a worrying trend, adding: “Nowadays kids see themselves as cool dudes if they’ve got a knife – it has also become the norm to carry a knife.”
Insp Riley said: “Drug crime is a massive priority for us. It can affect every community. People often turn to crime to fund their habits.
“We’re utilising the powers we have, but we do rely massively on the community to help us.
“Knife crime is another thing that is clearly a priority for us. It can be interlinked. We need to engage with older children, and utilise powers we have like stop and search when appropriate.
“I know it is controversial, but when used properly it can help tackle this issue.”
Councillor Riaz Ahmed ( Lib Dem, Bradford Moor) said: “I agree with Cllr Salam, you see young people on soft drugs – you can smell them.
“It affects their health and lead to massive problems. Then you have driving on drugs – When you are on drugs you are not in control of your vehicle.”
The discussion soon moved to the use of Nitrous Oxide, also known as laughing gas.
Empty cannisters of brands like Smart Whip are now a common sight of roadsides and car parks across Bradford.
Users often fill balloons with the gas as a way of inhaling the psychoactive substance.
Councillor Suhail Chowdry (Lab, Bolton and Undercliffe) asked Insp Riley: “Where do we stand on Smart Whip? You see young adults behind the wheel after inhaling it. Have there been any prosecutions?”
Insp Riley replied: “With Nitrous oxide we’re really bound by legislation. It is not illegal to possess cannisters. They are legal to buy for coffee machines, but you can’t supply them to provide a legal high.
“There is different legislation about driving – you can’t drive while under the influence of a substance that will affect you like this.”
He said local youth and health services had done work to educate young people about the dangers of laughing gas.
Referring to the litter left by laughing gas users, Cllr Ahmed said: “I do a litter pick in Bradford Moor, and you can fill a bag with the cannisters you pick up.
“The problem has gone from bad to worse.”
A recent report into drug and alcohol crime by West Yorkshire Police revealed that of the people processed at Trafalgar House Police Station in Bradford and tested for drugs in the past year, almost 47 per cent were found to have drugs in their system – highlighting the link between crime and drug use