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Britain Cracking Down on Increase in Cocaine Smuggling From Jamaica - 2002-01-03

British officials are raising alarms about a suspected surge in cocaine smuggling from Jamaica to Britain.

Britain's Deputy High Commissioner in Jamaica, Phil Sinkinson, says that more than 10 percent of all the passengers flying from Jamaica to Britain could be smuggling cocaine.

Mr. Sinkinson told British radio that most of the smugglers are poor women tempted by payments of up to $5,000 for bringing drugs into Britain.

"Now if you consider where they are coming from, from areas of pretty desperate poverty, a lot of them single mothers. It is very important for them to be able to get a hold of fast bucks to look after their family," he said.

His comments follow the arrest last month of nearly 40 Jamaicans at Britain's Heathrow and Gatwick airports on cocaine smuggling charges.

Authorities warn that the smugglers are jeopardizing their health by swallowing large numbers of condoms filled with cocaine in their efforts to elude arrest.

In a related development, Britain's customs service has announced the deployment of dogs trained to sit and look at suspected drug smugglers after sniffing them out.

Customs and excise officer Julie Pope explained the dogs' function to reporters in London.

"We have changed the training of the dogs so that in all types of environments, they give what we call a passive indication, which means they sit and stare at where they think the drug smell is coming from," he said.

The dogs are considered particularly well suited for passenger searches at crowded airports, where it would be difficult to use more aggressive dogs.