By Waseem Mohamed
Durham’s Police and Crime Commissioner Joy Allen told MPs yesterday that between October and December 2021, 82 spiking incidents were reported to Durham Police. She confirmed that 37 cases were thought to be injection related, reduced to 25 after investigation.
Speaking at the Home Affairs Committee, Allen admitted that “only 10% of people who have been a victim of spiking feel confident enough to report it in,” a statistic she says is “staggering”. On the number of injection reports, the Commissioner said “it’s still a significant number and demonstrates a trend.”
Official reporting figures are a likely to be a gross underestimate of the true number of spiking incidents that occurred in this timeframe. Figures complied by St Chad’ College JCR showed that last October, there were 167 reported cases of spiking reported by students to their colleges in just a two-week period that month.
Allen told MPs that there are major issues with reporting levels and data. She said that the figures represent “a drop in the ocean, because we know that other people aren’t coming forward,” and hence the police “feel that sometimes we’re working blind, because there’s a lot that we don’t know about.”
She called for more support to allow “victims to feel confident to report things”, saying that “we need to have a joined up approach with the police to allow the other 90% to come forward.” Allen stressed the need “to listen to victims, listen to what they’re telling us and act upon that.”
The statements come after the Home Affairs Committee launched an official inquiry into spiking incidents in December, which the Committee saying that it should help “understand better the prevalence of spiking and the effectiveness of the police response to it.”
The Committee has already held three meetings where people including Joy Allen provided oral evidence, and the inquiry has just re-opened a survey, where victims and witnesses of spiking incidents can give their views on the matter until the 31st of January.
The Committee has been told that nationally, there were 1,382 reported incidents of needle spiking since September last year, a figure the National Police Chiefs Council drug lead Jason Harwin said was something “we’ve never seen before.”
The increase of spiking incidents prompted a nationwide campaign across 60 universities, where people were encouraged to avoid visiting nightclubs and bars as part of the #BigNightIn campaign. Over 1400 students at Durham took part in a boycott of nightclubs and bars in October in response to a local rise in spiking cases.
As a result of spiking, many premises have worked alongside the University to install anti-spiking measures and improve awareness, as part of the #DurhamUnite scheme. This followed a controversial incident last term when the University infamously tweeted “#dontgetspiked”, which provoked accusations of victim-blaming among many.