Sweden’s cocaine use on the up

Sweden's cocaine use on the up
Cocaine use in Sweden is on the up and up, thanks in part to a sharp fall in street prices, police say. Swedish law enforcers are now considering stationing a police officer in South America to gather intelligence on the drugs trade.

“We can’t tackle global crime by sitting in Sweden. We need to go to the roots of this evil,” said Thord Modin, head of the Swedish National Criminal Investigation Department’s intelligence arm.

Police, social services and Swedish Customs say their experiences all point to an increase in cocaine use in Sweden, according to a new report by police and customs.

Placing a Nordic police liaison officer in Venezuela or Costa Rica would be one way of getting to grips with the problem, police say. They argue that it would improve contact with authorities in the countries where cocaine is produced and through which it is transported. It would also improve contact with the United States Drug Enforcement Agency, “which has great resources and contacts,” said Modin.

Putting a liaison officer in Colombia is not being considered “because of the security situation in the country, but also because of a lack of fast, efficient flight connections and other infrastructure,” said Modin.

The new report says cocaine use is increasing particularly among young people in Sweden’s cities. Less cocaine – 23 kilos – was seized in Sweden last year than the year before. But 2006 was untypical, as that year customs officers seized two major consignments of a total of 1,300 kilos. Last year the number of seizures was up to 105, from 89 the year before.

Per Westberg, head of Swedish Customs’ criminal investigation arm, said that all information pointed to cocaine being an increasing problem.

“I think this will be shown in our seizure statistics at the end of this year,” he said.

Swedish Customs estimates that 5-10 percent of all narcotics entering Sweden are detected. In order to increase that figure, better intelligence from authorities in other countries in needed, said Westberg. Another important challenge for Swedish police is to get to the core of the smuggling networks, many of which are recruited from particular ethnic groups.

“An individual courier is quite easy to replace,” said Westberg.

The report also says that amphetamines, originating mainly in the Netherlands, Belgium and Poland, are common in Sweden.

Cannabis remains the most common illegal drug, although use is not rising significantly. 80 percent of the cannabis in Sweden comes from Morocco. Swedish authorities need to improve cooperation with these countries too, said Westberg.