Police target abandoned buildings in fight against drugs

DAILY SABAH
ANKARA
Published 14.02.2019 00:03 Modified 14.02.2019 00:03

Abandoned buildings frequented by drug users face demolition as Turkey steps up the fight against drugs. Addressing an event on fighting drug addiction in Ankara Wednesday, Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu said their survey on drug use found that 24.6 percent of drug users took drugs in empty, abandoned buildings. "There are more than 21,000 such buildings and I ordered their demolition," he said.

The prevalence of a wide variety of drugs in recent years and increased revenues of terrorist groups from the drug trade forced Turkey to escalate the crackdown on drug smuggling and use. Soylu said security forces seized more than 13 tons of drugs between November 2018 and February 2019. "The large amount in those seizures show drug cartels, terrorist groups invest heavily in drugs, and drugs are now more diverse," the minister said.

He pointed out that drug-related deaths have been on the rise in recent years, from 232 in 2013 to 941 in 2017 though this number dropped significantly last year to 600. "We stepped up operations by 70 percent between 2016 and 2018," he said.

A transit country for drug smugglers working between Asia and Europe, Turkey is looking to curb domestic drug use. The government launched "The Rapid Action Plan against Drugs" in 2014 to counter drug abuse and smuggling. The action plan covers all aspects of the struggle against narcotics, from raising awareness of their dangers and curbing demand to rehabilitation and treatment of addicts and facilitating social inclusion.

It also paved the way for the establishment of "narco teams," specialized police units active in neighborhoods where drug sales are concentrated.

Soylu said they largely invested in counter-narcotics teams of police. "For instance, drug dealers drive high-powered, speedy cars. You can't chase them with cars with weak engines. So, we upgraded the vehicles of the counter-narcotics police," he said. The minister said the narco teams achieved a lot in a short time and pressed on street dealers. "More than 19,000 dealers were arrested last year and currently, 21,134 people are in jail for drug-related crimes. Since last month, 2,436 people, mostly dealers, were arrested," he added.

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