DEADLY crack cocaine can be bought on the streets of Britain in just 228 seconds, a Sun investigation reveals today.
Experts have warned of a sharp rise in use of the drug among young people and middle-class professionals, saying it is easier to order than a pizza.
But I found it took just three minutes and 48 seconds from phoning an order for the Class A drug to it being delivered by bicycle in East London.
One local former addict told me: “Buying crack here is easier than ordering an Uber, and way quicker than getting a pizza delivered. From the time you put the phone down on your crack dealer it can sometimes be delivered by a 12-year-old kid on a bike in a minute.”
Given the number of a dealer by local drug users in Ilford, East London, I dialled up and asked for crack using its street name, “white”.
I told him my location — at the junction of Riverdene Road and Bengal Road in a quiet residential area, near bustling Ilford Lane. Minutes later a man in a woolly hat arrived on a yellow pushbike and asked: “Just the white, yeah?”
The dealing operation — known locally as Five because of a number of ‘5’ digits in the phone number — was also offering “white and brown” deals of crack and heroin for £25.
The Sun covertly filmed the man in the hat as he asked me to walk down the road while completing the deal.
He told me: “I don’t like standing on the street. There’s cameras everywhere.”
The man, in his 20s, then handed over a “rock” of crack in exchange for £15. Users later told me the rock would be enough to smoke six pipefuls of the highly addictive drug. Lab tests by pharmaceutical analyst Anca Frinculescu confirmed the substance was crack cocaine.
Dialling the “Five” number again four days later, I asked to buy one “white” and asked to meet at the same junction in Ilford. A different man, wearing a puffer jacket, arrived by bike and I waited while a queue of other users bought drugs from him behind a row of garages.
Then, in broad daylight and despite signs warning of 24-hour CCTV, I gave him £15 for a rock of crack — and was unexpectedly given £5 change. Despite the wait, it took just 21 minutes and 49 seconds from ordering the drug on the phone to receiving the rock. A lab test again confirmed it was crack cocaine.
Harry Shapiro, director of information service DrugWise and a Government adviser, said: “It doesnt surprise me you bought crack so quickly. We live in an instant delivery culture. There’s no reason that shouldn’t apply to drugs as it does to pizzas or taxis.”
He believes the surge in UK crack use is due to a 56 per cent rise in global cocaine production in just three years.
The Sun investigated the availability of crack after a report by the Home Office and Public Health England warned it was now being sold at “pocket money prices”.
It stated that crack use is becoming more acceptable, even fashionable, among groups including professionals, students and clubbers. Dealers are using so-called “nudge” techniques, where they send out text messages to users with the latest special offers — and even happy hours pricing.
County lines drug lords are also spreading the sale of crack outside London to major cities such as Liverpool, Manchester and Birmingham.
A recovering former Ilford crackhead told The Sun: “There are six or seven dealers in Ilford. They give it to you free to start with. One of the kids that drops the drugs off is no more than 12 years old.”
The man, a builder in his 30s who smoked crack and heroin for 12 years before breaking his habit, spent as much as £100 a day on crack.
He added: “Every day I would go out shoplifting for half an hour, then sell what I’d stolen for half an hour, then smoke crack for an hour and repeat. That was my life. I’d do it on my own at home, watching TV and playing on my phone. Withdrawal is awful. You’d do anything for another pipe.”
One who knows the drug’s horrors is graduate Araminta Jonsson, 33, who juggled looking after young son Rory with a chronic crack habit.
She told The Sun: “Crack addiction is an itching urge. You spend your entire time thinking about your next pipe. I adore Rory and would do anything for him, but at the height of my addiction, if you’d placed a crack pipe in front of him and asked me to choose, I’d have gone for the pipe. Imagine wanting something more than you want your child — that’s how treacherous and dangerous it is.”
The Albania Link
ALBANIAN gangsters have gained a stranglehold on Britain’s £5billion cocaine trade.
Their business model is simple but fiendishly lucrative – bypass existing drug networks and buy wholesale, direct from Latin American drug cartels.
And the Albanian mafia had the muscle to enforce the new rules. It meant cheaper, purer cocaine flooding the UK – and a wave of bloody violence amid a knife crime epidemic. Last year it emerged that Albanian organised crime in the UK had risen 42 per cent in three years.
The National Crime Agency has warned that Albanian gangsters pose a “significant threat” and are quick to use violence, particularly around enforcing the drug trade.
Albanians now make up the second highest total of foreign nationals in UK jails at 760 – 433 of them for drug offences.
One gang, the Hellbanianz, in Barking, East London, have brazenly posted photos online showing off their guns, wads of cash and flash cars.
Araminta, from Abergavenny, Monmouthshire, who now edits Pipe Down magazine for recovering addicts, had been recovering from cocaine and alcohol addiction for six months when a boyfriend offered her crack in May 2016.
She recalled: “From the very first pipe it was all-consuming. Crack addiction inhabits every sinew, every single part of you and fills your mind constantly.”
Last month The Sun carried a brief diary of a crack-addicted sales manager from Birmingham who managed to hold down her job while indulging a serious habit. It affected her work — but she always got away with blaming it on a hangover.
Crack, so called due to its cracking or popping sound when heated, is white or yellow crystallised cocaine that is usually smoked. Inhaling its fumes means it hits the brain almost at once. The intense high lasts ten or so minutes, often leaving users craving another hit.
Overdose can cause death from respiratory or heart failure. Chronic use can lead to extreme anxiety, paranoia and hallucinations. After a binge, users suffer fatigue and depression. Possession carries a prison sentence of up to seven years.
The number of users rose by 8.5 per cent, from 166,640 to 180,748 in the four years to 2017. The number of adults starting treatment after using crack in England leapt by a fifth between 2015 and 2018.
The Government report said the scrapping of dedicated drug squads by some police forces has contributed to the crack surge. Brazen dealers are taking advantage of fewer officers on the beat to sell drugs in public, the report found.
Boris Pomroy, of anti-drug charity Mentor UK, said: “Sadly, I’m not surprised it took under four minutes for a crack delivery, and it is perhaps inevitable that we’re seeing a spike in the number of people needing help.
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“At Mentor we are particularly concerned that it is young people who are most affected, with a 30 per cent rise in the number of under-25s entering treatment.”
Clinical pharmacist Dr Rachel Britton, of drug and alcohol charity Addaction, outlined the risks of taking crack: “Long-term effects include depression and anxiety, and damage to vital organs. If people inject then there’s a risk of contracting viruses such as HIV or hepatitis C.
“It’s really important that people know where to go for help if they need it. People can approach their GP, their local drug service or access help anonymously through Addaction’s online web chat.”
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