SINGAPORE: Crimes involving or attributable to drugs in Singapore impose a high cost not only on drug abusers but also on their victims and society as a whole, a new study released on Monday (Jan 20) showed.
The cost of drug-involved crime was S$1.23 billion in 2015, equivalent to S$316 for every person living in Singapore, according to the study by a team from the Nanyang Technological University (NTU).
The figure includes tangible costs such as buying drugs and lost productivity due to drug consumption as well as intangible costs such as premature death and the pain and suffering by victims and their families.
According to the study which is the first of its kind in Singapore, the figure is comparable to the cost of the country being hit by a month of haze, or 10 per cent of how much the Government spent on education in 2015.
The study, commissioned by the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) in 2016, also found that the cost of drug-attributable crime was S$0.74 billion in 2015, equivalent to S$189 for every person living in Singapore.
Drug-attributable crime refers to non-drug consumption offences that can be attributed partially or entirely to drug abuse. Examples include theft, assault, rape and child abuse.
In 2010, the cost of drug-involved and drug-attributable crime was S$1 billion and S$0.52 billion respectively.
The study focused on drug abusers arrested in 2010 and 2015, and abusers with drug consumption offences who were in drug rehabilitation centres or prison in 2010 and 2015.
MHA said in a statement on Monday the study highlights that the cost of drug-involved and drug-attributable crime remains a “large and significant burden” to society.
“(It) underscores the need for proactive action in drug control and providing ex-abusers with the necessary support and skillsets so that they stay drug-free,” the ministry stated.
The NTU team, led by economics professor Euston Quah, said the findings can help policymakers make informed decisions about allocating resources to reduce drug crime.
The study found that the biggest contributor to the cost of drug-involved crime in 2015 was the cost of public service.
Agencies such as the Central Narcotics Bureau and Singapore Prison Service spent almost S$473 million on drug-related operating costs, making up 38 per cent of the total cost.
Also that year, heroin and methamphetamine accounted for 95 per cent, or about S$1.17 billion, of the total cost of drug-involved crime.
To come up with the cost of drug-involved crime, the team used data points such as drug prices, wage rates and the statistical value of life and suffering.
As for drug-attributable crime, the study found that in both 2010 and 2015, theft was by far the most common crime committed because of drug use, followed by assault.
Reasons for committing the crimes included needing money to buy drugs and being high on drugs at the time, the study said.
To come up with the cost of drug-attributable crime, the team surveyed 169 drug abusers with drug consumption offences who committed other offences in 2010 and 2015. It then derived a monetary value based on whether they attributed the other offences to drugs, the type of drugs involved and the related costs of crime.
The NTU team said the findings are likely to underestimate the true cost of drug crime due to the large number of related costs and a lack of data.
For instance, it does not include criminal justice costs incurred by the police and the judiciary, the number of work days victims lost, and medical expenses due to physical and psychological injuries.
MHA said drugs and crime are “directly and significantly” correlated when the intensity of drug use becomes very serious. “Drug use also amplifies and perpetuates pre-existing criminal activities,” it added.