Publication - Statistics

Drug seizures and Offender Characteristics, 2018-2019 and 2019-20

An overview of the number of drugs possession and supply crimes and the quantities seized during 2018-19 and 2019-20. There are also details of the types of offenders, location, and how the crime was discovered for possession based crimes.

Drug seizures and Offender Characteristics, 2018-2019 and 2019-20
Analysis of the characteristics of drug possession crimes

Analysis of the characteristics of drug possession crimes

Information about the offenders of drug possession crimes and how they came to the attention of the police was also recorded in the sampling process.

Characteristics of offenders

  • In both 2018-19 and 2019-20, the vast majority of drug possession crimes were committed by one offender, with only 3% of crimes having multiple offenders (these situations can occur where offenders collectively admit to ownership of the seized drugs, or if no one admits to ownership).
  • The vast majority of drug possession crimes were committed by males or all male groups (85% in both years).
  • The median age of a drug possession offender was 29 years old in both years and almost two thirds (64% in 2018-19 and 63% in 2019-20) of offenders were in the 20-29 and 30-39 years age groups. Offenders are far more likely to come from these two age groups than would be expected based solely on their size within the general population (27% for both years). Tables 7a and 7b show the age distribution of the offenders in the sample for each year.
Table 7a: Age distribution of the offenders of drug possession crimes in 2018-19
Age group of offender Percentage of offenders Percentage of total population1
0-19 15.0% 21.2%
20-29 37.0% 13.5%
30-39 27.3% 13.0%
40-49 15.3% 12.7%
50+ 5.5% 39.6%

1. Population figures are based on the National Records of Scotland 2018 mid-year estimates.

https://www.nrscotland.gov.uk/statistics-and-data/statistics/statistics-by-theme/population/population-estimates/mid-year-population-estimates

Table 7b: Age distribution of the offenders of drug possession crimes in 2019-20
Age group of offender Percentage of offenders Percentage of total population1
0-19 14.5% 21.0%
20-29 36.8% 13.4%
30-39 25.7% 13.2%
40-49 18.1% 12.5%
50+ 4.9% 42.3%

1. Population figures are based on the National Records of Scotland 2019 mid-year estimates.

https://www.nrscotland.gov.uk/statistics-and-data/statistics/statistics-by-theme/population/population-estimates/mid-year-population-estimates

How Police Scotland became aware of drug possession crimes

The circumstances leading to a drug possession seizure have been recorded based on the details of the event within the crime record. As crime records have not been created specifically for this purpose, it has been necessary on occasion to make assumptions around certain aspects of what happened. As such this information should be seen as a broad illustration, rather than a precise measure.

In 2018-19, it is estimated that half of drug possession crimes in the sample were detected by police while on routine patrol. The majority of these were cases where police officers on patrol had a suspicion or observed that the offender was in possession of drugs, with this category accounting for 38% of all records reviewed. A further 12% of records involved police on patrol dealing with another crime, offence or incident and finding drugs while doing this.

Around a third (32%) of drug possession crimes were detected as a result of police responding to a report of a crime, offence or another reported incident, either in relation to the drugs offence or for another matter (either criminal or non-criminal). One-in-ten drug possession seizures (10%) were made by police whilst carrying out a search warrant (likely due to the receipt of intelligence that an individual was involved in drugs crime).

In 2019-20, it is estimated that almost half (48%) of drug possession crimes in the sample were detected by police while on routine patrol. The majority of these were cases where police officers on patrol had a suspicion or observed that the offender was in possession of drugs, with this category accounting for 40% of all records reviewed. A further 9% of records involved police on patrol dealing with another crime, offence or incident and finding drugs while doing this.

Almost a third (30%) of drug possession crimes were assessed to be found as a result of police responding to a report of a crime, offence or another reported incident, either in relation to the drugs offence or for another matter (either criminal or non-criminal). A further 15% of drug possession seizures were made by police whilst carrying out a search warrant (likely due to the receipt of intelligence that an individual was involved in drugs crime).

Other information about the drug possession crimes

  • In 2018-19, the most common days of the week for drug possession crimes to take place were a Saturday and a Thursday, with 18% and 17% of seizures respectively. The least common day was a Monday, with only a tenth of seizures occurring on this day of the week.
  • In 2019-20, there is a fairly even distribution over the weekdays, however a fifth (20%) of possession crimes occurred on a Saturday with just under a tenth (9%) occurring on a Sunday.
  • In both 2018-19 and 2019-20, the most common location for drug possession crimes to take place was the street or other open space, with 56% of records reviewed having this locus in 2018-19 and 58% in 2019-20. Dwellings were the next most common locus in both years, where 21% and 24% of drug possession crimes took place in 2018-19 and 2019-20 respectively.

Contact

Email: JusticeAnalysts@gov.scot