Bat­tles won in war on drugs

Po­lice dis­rupt deal­ers’ ac­tiv­i­ties

The Oban Times - - News - MARTIN LAING mlaing@oban­times.co.uk

DRUG deal­ers in the Oban area are hav­ing their op­er­a­tions se­verely dis­rupted thanks to a num­ber of ini­tia­tives.

Po­lice in the town have been ag­gres­sively tar­get­ing the drugs ped­dlers and have made se­ri­ous in­roads into their crim­i­nal ac­tiv­ity.

Oban-based In­spec­tor Mark Stephen told The Oban Times: ‘We have had a very pos­i­tive year and very pos­i­tive re­sults in tar­get­ing se­ri­ous and or­gan­ised crimes and the sup­plies of all kinds of drugs in the Oban area.

‘Our ef­forts have been led by the com­mu­nity in­ves­ti­ga­tions unit, which has made se­ri­ous in­roads in tar­get­ing th­ese groups and in­di­vid­u­als. We have now got sev­eral cases in the crim­i­nal jus­tice sys­tem wait­ing to ap­pear in court which could be sub­ject to cus­to­dial sentences.’

One of the ma­jor ini­tia­tives to have paid div­i­dends has been the Shop a Dealer cam­paign, which saw grat­i­fy­ing in­volve­ment from and en­gage­ment with lo­cal com­mu­ni­ties.

In­spec­tor Stephen ex­plained: ‘We launched Shop a Dealer in De­cem­ber 2014 and it is, in fact, still run­ning.

‘ What that cam­paign re­ally did was to al­low us to move for­ward and have a re­ally suc­cess­ful year. It gave the pub­lic an op­por­tu­nity to get in touch with us to high- light is­sues and their in­for­ma­tion has been vi­tal.

‘Peo­ple can see what is hap­pen­ing in their com­mu­ni­ties and, from that, dif­fer­ent mem­bers of the pub­lic were giv­ing us snip­pets of in­for­ma­tion. It’s a bit like a jig­saw – all th­ese pieces of in­for­ma­tion can be put to­gether to let us see a big­ger pic­ture.

‘It em­pow­ered the com­mu­nity to be in­volved and, when the pub­lic saw the po­lice tak­ing pos­i­tive ac­tion, it re­in­forced the re­la­tion­ship be­tween us. And from that we started build­ing even bet­ter re­la­tion­ships.

‘Peo­ple were stop­ping of­fi­cers in the street and were happy to pro­vide in­for­ma­tion be­cause peo­ple don’t want drug deal­ers in their com­mu­ni­ties.’

In­spec­tor Stephen was also quick to praise other agen­cies that have helped to de­grade the drugs trade. ‘We have meet­ings with our part­ners in ed­u­ca­tion, health and the third sec­tor teams that pro­vide coun­selling and ad­dic­tion ser­vices.

‘Po­lice Scot­land on its own won’t solve the scourge of drugs. But when all the part­ners get to­gether, we are much greater than the sum of our parts. And the com­mu­nity is very much part of that. When we get ev­ery­one pulling in the same di­rec­tion, we can make a dif­fer­ence.

‘In the past year we have had sub­stan­tial re­sults in terms of tack­ling lo­cal drugs deal­ers. Once you get them rock­ing back on their heels, we can make in­roads into their or­gan­i­sa­tions.

‘And when you start to dis­rupt them, their op­er­a­tions be­gin to frag­ment and that means more op­por­tu­ni­ties for us to add to that.’

In­spec­tor Stephen also added his voice to those that have wel­comed the re­cent ban­ning of so- called le­gal highs. ‘The ban is sig­nif­i­cant be­cause of the pro­file of the peo­ple who were tak­ing them. They were chil­dren and teenagers ex­pos­ing them­selves to all sorts of harm.

‘ We’ve had a num­ber of in­ci­dents that re­quired med­i­cal treat­ment. It was very im­por­tant to get them banned be­cause they posed a real dan­ger as young peo­ple thought the word le­gal made them safe.’

In­spec­tor Stephen also stressed that the drugs sit­u­a­tion in Oban and the Ar­gyll area was not as se­ri­ous as in the in­ner cities but added that there was no room for com­pla­cency. He said: ‘The drugs prob­lem is noth­ing like as preva­lent or se­ri­ous here as in Glas­gow and the city cen­tres but it does ra­di­ate out.

‘Af­ter all, we are only two hours away by car from the ur­ban ar­eas and the peo­ple who con­trol th­ese drugs are part of se­ri­ous and or­gan­ised crime. And they are al­ways look­ing to in­crease their mar­ket and they’re al­ways look­ing to ex­tend their crim­i­nal­ity.’

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