Spike in arrests of those buying drugs online

An online marketplace advertising the sale of drugs.
An online marketplace advertising the sale of drugs. PHOTO: THE NEW PAPER

CNB reports close to sixfold increase even as Singapore's overall drug situation improves

The number of people arrested for buying drugs and drug-related paraphernalia online has seen a close to sixfold increase, even as the local drug situation last year improved with fewer drug abusers being arrested overall.

In a statement yesterday, the Central Narcotics Bureau (CNB) said online drug peddling was a trend of concern, with 201 people arrested for such crimes, up from 30 the previous year.

CNB said drug syndicates and peddlers have taken advantage of the borderless nature of the Internet to conduct illegal drug activities, and most of those arrested for buying drugs or related tools online were between the ages of 20 and 39.

While the overall number of drug abusers arrested fell by 3 per cent from 3,343 in 2015 to 3,245 last year, the number of new abusers increased by 3 per cent to 1,347, up from 1,309 the previous year.

CNB also highlighted a second trend of concern: More young abusers are getting into drugs. Those aged 20 to 29 continued to form the largest group of overall abusers, and those below 30 made up two-thirds of new abusers last year.

The total street value of drugs seized last yearwas estimated at $8 million, down from $8.56 million in 2015.

Methamphetamine, heroin and cannabis continued to be the most commonly abused drugs, with 99 per cent of drug abusers arrested having used at least one of the three.

Last year, there was a 22 per cent increase in cannabis seizures, up from 44.29kg in 2015 to 54.04kg.

 
 

This corresponds with the high number of seizures of drugs like methamphetamine and cannabis in the region, said a CNB spokesman.

According to the 2016 World Drug Report by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, cannabis remained the most widely cultivated drug crop and the most trafficked drug worldwide.

The CNB spokesman said: "Despite the claims made by pro-cannabis proponents, an independent literature review on cannabis conducted by experts from Singapore's Institute of Mental Health found that cannabis was harmful and addictive, especially for young people."

The spokesman added that experts have found that half of those who used cannabis daily developed a dependence on the drug, and it also causes irreversible damage to brain development.

To tackle the local drug situation last year, CNB partnered the Singapore Police Force and conducted 19 islandwide operations targeting drug traffickers and abusers.

The two agencies also teamed up with the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority in 1,920 operations at land, air and sea checkpoints to intercept drugs entering Singapore.

Last year, CNB also held major operations which led to the crippling of 23 drug syndicates.

"CNB will continue to work closely with its Home Team counterparts and strategic partners to build up its detection and enforcement capabilities against online drug trafficking activities," said the spokesman.

Preventive drug education and community engagement are also key components in CNB's fight against drug abuse, and the agency has adopted social media and technology to engage youth.

Among these initiatives are CNB's new social media branding, CNB.DrugFreeSG, and also the revamped Drug Buster Academy Bus, which travels to community and school events for greater anti-drug outreach.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 14, 2017, with the headline 'Spike in arrests of those buying drugs online'. Print Edition | Subscribe