Great start for legal highs task force
29 Jan 2016 14:12 PM[View Full Size]
The early signs are good for the task force set up to tackle legal highs in Newcastle.
In the two weeks since the dedicated team of officers from Central Area Command were put together there has been lots of activity taking place in the west end and city centre areas and the initial results and feedback from the public has been positive.
Officers are getting intelligence direct from legal high users that in the last couple of weeks it has been harder than ever before to buy legal highs in the city, with a number of their usual suppliers refusing to sell them because of the increased activity by police and partners.
This increased activity has included a number of addresses in the west end of the city that were subject to police warrants earlier on in the week. This operation saw a large amount of legal highs, which are suspected to contain controlled substances, seized by police. These are now being tested and enquiries are ongoing to see if any offences have been committed.
Officers have also been working with health workers and professionals, local authority staff and other partners to share health warnings and safety messages about the dangers of so called 'legal highs' to people living in Newcastle.
Since all of this activity began, officers have noticed a drop in the numbers of incidents that they have been called to involving legal highs and serious cases of anyone suffering from the side affects of taking them.
Members of the public have been taking to social media and speaking to neighbourhood officers while out on patrol, about how they support the operation and how much they appreciate the extra work that is being done by the force to tackle the issue.
Superintendent Richard Jackson said: "We've had a really positive reaction from the public so far about the work that we are doing to tackle legal highs. The harm they are causing is felt most in our communities in the city centre and in the west end and we'll continue to do all we can to put a stop to it.
"The intelligence that we're getting back from the legal high users is also really positive. They're telling us that it's becoming more and more difficult for them to find people willing to sell the substances to them because they know the police are out and looking to target them. And this is the case, we are.
"One user even contacted me direct to give information on their supplier!
"Although we've got off to a good start we will not get complacent. We certainly don't think the problem has been solved and we are fully aware there are people out there still dealing in Newcastle, including commercial premises.
"I want to warn these people that once we have identified you are supplying we will take any action we can to get you stopped and to put a stop to the damage you are causing our area. You are not just facing the police but a collective of enforcement agencies including the Local Authority.
"We've already seen arrests being made, stock and substantial amounts of cash being seized and even premises being closed down. We will use every power that we can to stop legal high peddlers and we make no apology for it.
"Activity will continue and plans are already in place for a number of operations to be carried out at premises that we believe are selling legal highs in the city.
"The aim of these operations is to try and catch legal high sellers, get our hands on the products they are selling and find out if they contain any illegal drugs in them - if we find they do, then we will treat the sellers just the same as any drug dealer and they will be arrested".
Northumbria Police and Crime Commissioner, Vera Baird, said: "My feelings on these substances are well known and I am very pleased at the positive impact that this taskforce is having. We have seen here in Newcastle and throughout the country how these drugs have had a terrible impact on people’s live. This activity demonstrates that Northumbria Police is listening to the public and is determined to tackle the problem head on.
"Local residents can rest assured this is a top priority for me and I will ensure officers do everything within their power to get those selling these substances before the courts so we can prevent people getting addicted to them and putting their lives at risk."