Middle-class drug users who police chiefs have claimed are fuelling violent crime face a crackdown when the home secretary, Sajid Javid, launches a major review of drug misuse on Tuesday.
Outlining its first serious violence strategy earlier this year, the government highlighted strong evidence that illicit drugs markets can drive sudden shifts in violence such as knife and gun crime.
Cocaine was used by an estimated 875,000 people in 2017-18, according to the latest crime survey for England and Wales – the highest number in a decade and a 15% year-on-year rise.
In his speech to the Tory party conference in Birmingham, Javid will attempt to boost his leadership credentials with a tough message on drugs.
He will say: “I am committed to ending the scourge of violent crime and will combat this issue using all the tools at the government’s disposal. We will not only deal with crime when it happens but will go further and strengthen our ability to target and prevent the root causes of criminal behaviour from finding the evidence, ensuring our services are working together, and providing the right resources to the right places.”
As well as investigating drug use among professionals, the review is expected to look at the small number of entrenched users who police forces consider cause the most harm.
The home secretary is also expected to announce plans to consult on proposals to introduce a statutory duty on some professionals to report suspects of violent crime.
An example given by sources was teachers who had identified a pupil from a problem ward who was a frequent truant. The consultation would look at how that information could be shared.
It is understood a form of mandatory reporting is to be considered, but the proposals would not go so far as to include sanctions against public authorities for failing to report. A consultation document will be put forward before the end of this year.
Javid will also unveil a £200m youth endowment fund to tackle violent crime “hotspots” over the next decade, supporting projects that help vulnerable children aged 10 to 14, including mentoring and counselling.
Meanwhile, drug “kingpins” operating behind bars are to come under pressure from a new financial crime squad as part of a broader clampdown on crime and violence in prisons.
Her Majesty’s Prison and Probation Service’s financial crime unit will track illicit bank transactions and freeze accounts to stop drug dealers in prison moving money around, the justice secretary, David Gauke, will announce.
He will also resurrect plans to build a £5m “secure school” for young offenders – once put forward by the former justice secretary Chris Grayling but then scrapped by his successor, and one of Gauke’s predecessors, Michael Gove.
The proposals come at a time of crisis for prisons in England and Wales, with a series of damning inspections highlighting the rising levels of violence, drug use and self-harm behind bars. As the Tory conference began, a riot broke out at HMP Long Lartin, a high security prison in Worcestershire housing some of the most dangerous offenders in Britain.