Task force launched to tackle 'legal highs'
25 Jan 2016 07:57 AM[View Full Size]
A task force has been created by police in Newcastle aimed at cracking down on so called 'legal highs'.
Between November 15, 2015 and January 16, 2016 officers have been called to 98 incidents involving legal highs in the Newcastle area.
These include reports of anti-social behaviour, disorder, criminal behaviour and a large number of incidents where life has been put at risk after people have suffered side effects as a result of taking legal highs.
Legal highs are causing great concern to communities across Newcastle, especially in the west end and the city centre areas, they are putting a huge strain on emergency services and, most importantly, they are putting people's lives at risk.
This alarming rise in number, and severity, of incidents has led to senior officers from Central Area Command forming a task force with the aim of identifying and targeting those responsible for selling and distributing legal highs.
A team of officers will be supported by staff from partner agencies including Newcastle City Council and Health Services - all of who have had to deal with the aftermath legal highs have caused in the city.
Superintendent Richard Jackson said: "The effects of taking legal highs are becoming an increasing problem and concern for everyone in Newcastle - the police, our partners and most importantly the public.
"We are getting more and more reports of incidents where legal highs are a factor and it's almost everyday now that officers are having to deal with the consequences of someone who has taken legal highs.
"Residents, especially in the west end and the city centre are becoming extremely concerned about the impact legal highs are having on their communities and enough is enough, we have to take action now and do something about it.
"We know the reality is that substances distributed as 'legal highs' often contain prohibited drugs and those that supply them will be targeted as drug dealers.
"That's why we've made the issue a priority and have formed this team of officers who have been tasked with identifying where they are being sold in Newcastle, who is selling them and to make life as difficult as possible for them.
"We'll use all of our policing powers to make this happen and will work with the local authority, and our partners across the city, and use all of their help and powers too. We are prepared to make arrests, close premises down and to use every tactic that we have at our disposal to stop the selling and distribution of legal highs in Newcastle.
"This literally could be a matter of life and death and we make no apologies for the hard line that we are taking on the issue. Legal highs are affecting the quality of life in our city and as a partnership we won't stand by and allow it to happen."
Northumbria Police and Crime Commissioner, Vera Baird, said: "Legal highs have a devastating effect on communities, that is why I have lobbied the Home Secretary on a number of occasions urging her to implement effective laws that tackle those who make these products and those who sell them.
"Northumbria Police will do everything within their power to bring before the courts those who sell and produce these products. The police will continue to work in partnership with Newcastle Council who are just as determined as Northumbria Police to take these products off the streets.
"Local residents need to let the police know if these products are being sold in their community – once the police know, they will take action."
Examples of recent incidents in Newcastle involving legal highs -
- In November a 14-year-old boy in the west end was taken to hospital after being found fitting and unconscious after taking legal highs.
- In November a 27-year-old man threatened to jump from a bridge while under the influence of legal highs. When police talked him down he was found to be coughing up blood and had to go to hospital where he spent time on a life support machine.
- In December, police and ambulance staff had to deal with a 25-year-old man who had taken legal highs and had become aggressive and was making threats towards members of the public. He became unconscious and was taken to hospital.
- In January, a 37-year-old man was taken to hospital after he overdosed on legal highs. This caused him to slip in and out of consciousness and spend time in hospital. This was the fourth time the man had done this.
- In January, a 23-year-old man was found convulsing and fitting in the rear lane of a street in the west end of Newcastle after taking legal highs. He was taken to hospital for treatment.
- In January, a 22-year-old man was found collapsed and unconscious in the street by officers out on patrol. He had taken Red Exodus legal high.
- In January, the mother of a 24-year-old man called police after her son had taken legal highs and had become unable to move or communicate and lost consciousness. He was taken to hospital for treatment.