Implying that cellular phones have helped boost the trade of illicit drugs, mainly stimulants, National Police Agency officials said Thursday that at least 207 cellular phones belonging to Iranians suspected of drug dealing were confiscated in the first half of this year, accounting for about 80 percent of phones confiscated in all of 1997.

Cellular phones, agency officials say, are commonly used by drug dealers to contact customers. Police say drug dealers start building a clientele by offering their cellular phone number to people on the street, targeting mainly youths. NPA officials said a cellular phone number that has circulated among a considerable group of clients can yield between 2 million yen and 10 million yen in profits for a dealer.

The NPA officials said the agency plans to crack down on organized crime groups the dealers are believed affiliated with, to try to cut major drug trafficking routes.

An Iranian arrested by Shiga Prefectural Police in May for alleged trafficking said he had made 5 million yen in profits in 23 days using a cellular phone he bought from another dealer. NPA officials added that statistics indicate each dealer uses 1.5 cellular phones, nearly double the figure last year.

Drug dealing with cellular phones has also spread to areas outside of major cities across the nation. The number of junior high and high school students arrested for using stimulant drugs, mainly methamphetamines, hit a record high of 262 nationwide last year, according to the agency.

Illegal drugs also cost a lot less now, tempting more minors to try them, police said. The street price for one hit of a stimulant drug, or about 0.03 gram, is about 2,000 yen, which is about one-fifth of what it was 20 years ago, the agency said.

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