Chapter 7
Crime and prison issues

Drug-related crime

Drug-related crime is taken as referring to crimes committed under the influence of drugs; those committed in order to finance drug use; those occurring in the context of the functioning of illicit drug markets and those against drug legislations. Routine data are available in the EU only on the last type of crime – drug law offences.


Box 11: Drug use and crime – some data

In a survey carried out in 2004 in the Czech Republic, police officers working in regional headquarters estimated that approximately 40 % of ordinary thefts and approximately 30 % of burglaries had been committed in order to buy drugs. In the same country, routine data on recorded crime showed that, in 2003, 0.7 % of all offences were committed while the offenders were under the influence of narcotic or psychotropic substances (alcohol excluded) (Czech national report).

In Finland, during 2000–03, the proportion of homicides and assaults committed by offenders under the influence of illicit drugs was much lower than the proportion committed by offenders under the influence of alcohol (6 % compared with 64 % of homicides and 2 % compared with 71 % of assaults) (Lehti and Kivivuori; cited in the Finnish national report). Although the presence of drugs in robbery offences seems to have increased in the last decade, the presence of alcohol in robbery offences is still more common (43 % of robbery offences involve alcohol compared with 9 % that involve drugs).

In Germany, ‘direct economic compulsive crimes’ – criminal offences committed in order to obtain narcotic drugs or substitute or alternative drugs – decreased in 2003 to 2 568 cases, of which over 70 % were related to forgery of prescriptions or theft of prescription forms (BKA, 2004).

In Latvia, routine data from the Ministry of Interior showed that 2.8 % of all detected crimes in 2003 (3.1 % in 2002) were committed by offenders who were under the influence of narcotic substances (Latvian national report).


‘Reports’ (171) of drug law offences reflected differences in national legislations, in the ways in which the laws are applied and enforced and in the priorities and resources allocated by criminal justice agencies to specific crimes. In addition, information systems on drug law offences vary considerably between countries, especially in relation to reporting and recording practices, i.e. what is recorded and when and how. These differences make comparisons between EU countries difficult.

Between 1998 and 2003, the number of ‘reports’ of drug law offences increased in most EU countries. Increases were particularly marked (twofold or more) in Estonia and Poland. However, the number of ‘reports’ decreased in 2003 in Belgium, Spain, Italy (since 2001), Hungary, Malta, Austria and Slovenia (since 2002) (172).

In most EU Member States, the majority of reported drug law offences continued to be related to drug use or possession for use (173), ranging from 39 % of all drug law offences in Poland to 87 % in Austria and the United Kingdom. In the Czech Republic and Luxembourg, 91 % and 46 %, respectively, of reported drug law offences were related to dealing or trafficking, whereas in Italy and Spain – where drug use and possession for use are not criminal offences – all drug offences were related to dealing or trafficking. Finally, in Portugal (174) and Norway (175), 59 % of offences were related to drug use and trafficking together.

In all countries from which data are available, except Portugal, the proportion of all drug law offences accounted for by those related to drug use/possession for use increased over the five-year period 1998–2003 (176). The rate of increase was generally slow, but more marked upward trends were evident in Belgium, Luxembourg and Slovenia, and in Ireland until 2001. In Portugal, the proportion of use-related offences started to decrease in 2000, one year before drug use and possession for use were decriminalised in July 2001 (177). In 2003, decreases were reported in the Czech Republic, Luxembourg, Austria and Slovenia.

In most of the Member States, cannabis continued to be the illicit drug most often involved in reported drug law offences (178). In the countries where this was the case, cannabis-related offences in 2003 accounted for 39 % (Italy) to 87 % (France) of all drug law offences. In the Netherlands, offences involving ‘hard drugs’ (179) were predominant (58 %), whereas in the Czech Republic the majority of drug law offences related to amphetamines (48 %). The relative proportion of drug law offences related to any specific drug is influenced by a number of factors, including the operational priorities of law enforcement agencies and explicit or implicit strategic decisions to target different types of drug law offences differentially.

Since 1998, the proportion of drug offences involving cannabis (180) has been increasing in Germany, Spain, France, Ireland, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta and Portugal, whereas it has remained stable overall in Belgium, the Czech Republic, the Netherlands, Slovenia, Sweden and the United Kingdom, and has been decreasing in Italy and Austria (181).

Over the same period, the proportion of heroin-related offences decreased in all EU countries from which data are available, except Austria and the United Kingdom, where it increased (182). In contrast, cocaine-related offences have increased as a proportion of all drug offences since 1998 in all countries providing data except Germany, which reported downward trends (183).


(171) The term ‘reports’ for drug law offences is in quotation marks because it describes different concepts in different countries (police reports of suspected drug law offenders, charges for drug law offences, etc.). For an exact definition for each country, refer to the methodological notes on definitions of ‘reports’ for drug law offences in the 2005 statistical bulletin. (NB: The term ‘arrests’ was used in annual reports until 2001.)

(172) See Table DLO-1 (part i) in the 2005 statistical bulletin. Data on ‘reports’ for drug law offences in 2003 were not available for Denmark, Germany, Ireland, Latvia, Slovakia and the United Kingdom.

(173) See Table DLO-2 in the 2005 statistical bulletin.

(174) In Portugal, remaining drug law offences are related to ‘drug dealing/trafficking’, as offences of drug use/possession for use were decriminalised in July 2001.

(175) In Norway, no distinction is drawn between ‘drug dealing/trafficking’ alone and ‘drug use/dealing and trafficking’. Therefore, remaining drug law offences are related to ‘drug use’ alone.

(176) See Table DLO-4 in the 2005 statistical bulletin.

(177) The law to decriminalise drug use and possession for use was passed in November 2000 and came into effect in July 2001.

(178) See Table DLO-3 in the 2005 statistical bulletin.

(179) In the Netherlands, ‘hard drugs’ are defined as drugs that pose unacceptable public health risks, such as heroin, cocaine, ecstasy and LSD.

(180) The following countries provided a breakdown by drug or drug offences over time: Belgium, the Czech Republic, Germany, Spain, France, Ireland, Italy, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands (only ‘soft drugs’/cannabis and ‘hard drugs’), Austria, Portugal, Slovenia, Sweden and the United Kingdom.

(181) See Table DLO-5 in the 2005 statistical bulletin.

(182) See Table DLO-6 in the 2005 statistical bulletin.

(183) See Table DLO-7 in the 2005 statistical bulletin.