Crime, heroin and poverty underpinned the growth of the sector. But with change happening at every turn, Marcus Roberts takes stock.
A new Home Office research report by Nick Morgan considers The heroin epidemic of the 1980s and 1990s and its effect upon crime trends – then and now. It asks whether the ‘significant drugs epidemic, or wave of epidemics, through the 1980s and early 1990s’ can help to explain a rise and subsequent fall in crime for which ‘no definitive explanation has been produced’. Morgan finds that ‘the epidemic may have had a significant impact on acquisitive crime in England and Wales’, helping to explain why crime rose in the 1980s and early 1990s and has been falling since the mid 1990s. He concludes that – even allowing for a declining and ageing population – ‘OCUs (opiate and crack users) continue to have the biggest impact on acquisitive crime trends’, and ‘the potential for further crime reduction is large’. This argument is not heard as much in current debate
about drug treatment, even though it was the dominant trope for the best part of a decade.