Drug seizures spiked in Wiltshire last year, government figures show.

The county’s drug squad chief said it was a consequence of a stronger focus on tackling those who dealt heroin and crack cocaine.

Home Office figures show Wiltshire Police recorded 1,514 drug seizures in 2018/19, a rise of 60 per cent compared to the previous year.

There were 2,103 seizures for the equivalent of every million residents, lower than the rate of 2,432 per million across England and Wales.

Class A drugs – those considered to be the most harmful, such as heroin, cocaine and crack – accounted for 25 per cent of seizures last year.

The drug most frequently seized drug was cannabis followed by cocaine.

Last week, Wiltshire Police seized £40,000-worth of drugs and arrested 60 people suspected of being involved in dealing.

Det Insp Paul Franklin, who led the operation, said: “We have made no secret of the fact that we have been focusing on tackling drug dealing across Swindon and Wiltshire by carrying out proactive operations to dismantle and disrupt the supply of illegal drugs.

“A natural outcome of this is a significant increase in the seizure of illicit drugs – particularly Class A drugs such as heroin and crack cocaine.

“We have repeatedly highlighted the misery that this type of criminality brings to our communities. For example, the County Lines model relies on intimidation, violence and exploitation, and anything we can do to take a strong stance and show these gangs that we are not a soft target has to be a positive thing.”

Nationally, the number of drug seizures increased last year for the first time since 2011/12.

Police and border forces recorded 153,000 seizures, an increase of more than 16,000 in one year, but still far lower than the peak of 241,000 seen in 2008-09.

Labour MP Jeff Smith, co-chair of the all-party parliamentary group for drug policy reform, said the figures were "little reason to celebrate".

"The illicit drugs market is resilient to the extent that a major bust is only likely to disrupt supply for a matter of hours," he said. "With UK drugs-related death figures the highest on record, the Government’s approach to drugs policy is doing nothing to avert the public health crisis we face.

"The real priority should be to focus on education and to bring in harm-reduction measures that will save lives."

Simon Kempton, operational policing lead for the Police Federation, said:"These figures also reflect the huge amount of drugs which are available, as both prices and purity of drugs available on the street don’t seem to have been affected."