Guilt tactics over city’s drug misery
In an east London nightclub, a group in their 30s take turns going into the toilets to do lines of cocaine in the cubicles. It's not something they are going to great trouble to hide.
They've just come from an apartment where they began their night over drinks, music, talk of the week that has just gone, the night ahead - and the drugs they will take.
For Ben, 32,* this is a chance to unwind and have fun.
"It's obviously not the most healthy thing you could do with a night, but in my mind, it's definitely the lesser of many things, like even alcohol, or harder drugs. I don't wake up the next day feeling I've been run down by a truck."
He rarely thought about how the cocaine ended up on his living room table. "How many people would?" he asked, denying any guilt about the increasing misery the drug is causing in London.
Casey*, a 35-year-old who works at Westminster, doesn't see a problem. "In moderation, it's fine, I think," she told news.com.au. "It's a personal choice and that is your own responsibility for your wellbeing."
She admitted she paid little thought to where the drugs came from and was only concerned with not getting caught.
Ben and Casey aren't alone thinking like this - figures show use of cocaine, long seen the world over as the drug of choice for the rich and famous, is on the rise among the United Kingdom's wealthier residents, and down among its poorest.
Authorities in London are now pushing to take the so-called war on drugs directly to people like Casey and Ben.
They have done so as the UK - and the British capital in particular - is gripped by a wave of violence, especially stabbings.
There were more than 130 murders in the city last year, with a large number of the victims being young black men. It's a subject all Londoners are aware of, as not just the murder rate, but assaults, shootings and muggings by moped gangs all rising.
What's new is the change of tactic.
'MISERY THROUGHOUT THE SUPPLY CHAIN'
Cressida Dick, head of London's Metropolitan Police, told Sky News: "There's this challenge that there's a whole group of middle-class people who will sit round happily talking about global warming, fair trade, environmental protection and organic farming, but think there's no harm in taking a bit of cocaine.
"Well, there is. There is misery throughout the supply chain."
In the past, there have been campaigns targeting cocaine users with messages about where the drug is coming from, usually South America, and the violence the drug trade is causing there.
Now, it's hoped cashed-up middle class Londoners will focus their thoughts on the young lives being lost on streets much closer to home.
Theresa May's government is also taking the issue seriously.
Justice Secretary David Gauke ignited outrage last year when he said middle-class drug users should take their share of the blame for the crime rate, and the many young lives cut short.
Mr Gauke pointed the finger of blame squarely at users, saying they should feel "guilt and responsibility".
"There's a responsibility for middle class people that take cocaine at a dinner party that when they see a story of a 15-year-old boy stabbed in Hackney (east London) they should feel a degree of guilt and responsibility."
London's left-wing mayor Sadiq Khan also blamed "middle-class parties" for the violence that is wreaking havoc on the British capital.
Mr Khan said people had for too long thought drug use, like taking cocaine at gatherings, was a "victimless crime".
He told a London radio phone-in show last year he had seen evidence that convinced him of the link between cocaine use and rampant crime.
"There is a definite link, which has been shown to me by the police, of drugs and criminal gangs and knife crime and crime going up."
He promised to crack down on gangs - and users.
"We have got to make sure we take action among those young people who are involved in criminal gangs as well as those who are buying them.
"There are some Londoners who think it is a victimless crime, taking cocaine at 'middle-class parties'. We need to make sure Londoners realise there is no such thing as a victimless crime."
The mayor - who has seen crime explode since he took over at City Hall in 2016 - said some of the victims of the recent crime wave were "lower down the food chain in relation to drugs".
The Police Federation's Simon Kempton said the middle class needed to bear some of the blame for the stabbings and mayhem happening on British streets.
"The only reason gangs are into drugs is because people want to buy them, and a big part of that is not street-level users. Street-level users are a problem because they steal to fund their habit but on their own they will not support an organised crime group."
The real money for drug gangs was made through wealthy people who bought bags of cocaine for their dinner parties or nights in London's nightclubs.
"The big market is people with money to spend and they are often oblivious to the misery they cause because it is not on their doorstep," Mr Kempton said.
"Middle-class drug users do not come across the radar of police because they are consuming it behind closed doors."
'A DESPERATE PLOY'
Sheldon Thomas, a former gang member who works in the community to steer people away from gang life, told The Guardian the wrong people were being targeted. "The police target street gangs but the problem is organised criminal networks and the middle-class white people who buy the drugs. The question is: who is buying the drugs at that level? Who is buying them and are we tackling them as well?
He believed if the market for cocaine was reduced, there would be a less ferocious turf war, which in turn would lead to fewer deaths.
"We need to tackle street gangs and gang crime but for me the big incubator is middle-class people who buy these drugs. We need to tackle middle-class white people who are buying cocaine in very large amounts."
If the attitudes of Casey, Ben and their group of friends is any indication, any change will be a long way off.
"I can see where they are coming from to a certain degree," Ben said. "But it is a pretty desperate ploy, especially from the (police) force and the government.
"The numbers of police on the streets has been cut so heavily by this Tory government, they have to think of new ways of cutting crime."
Asked for what he thought when reading articles about drug crime, Ben said it made him "sad".
"It sounds cold to say, and no one likes to admit this, but everyone usually has choice to be in those gangs. Yeah it is true, if there was no demand from people then there would be no need to supply it, but life is not ever that black and white."
Casey said she was upset and worried about the crime rate - but not enough to do away with her semi-regular cocaine treat.
"If you traced a lot of things back to its origins, then a lot of it could be harmful ... nothing is completely pure. I'm not naive enough to not know that."
*Names have been changed.