In the CID, we deal with some of the most serious crimes to impact victims and the wider communities where they take place, and this includes tackling the distribution and sale of illegal drugs.
During the past month, police teams across the north-east have been working hard to launch operations in your communities to keep drugs off our streets and to pursue the criminals who travel from other parts of the UK to deal drugs here in the north.
This activity included ‘Operation Hidden’ in Aberdeen, where four early-morning warrants were executed at properties in the city-centre resulting in the seizure of class A drugs worth a five-figure sum and three people being charged.
We invited the Evening Express out with us to see first-hand what goes into executing operations on this scale, and I am extremely grateful that they took the time to highlight the vital work taking place.
In addition last month, 223 people were charged in connection with drug offences, 21 warrants were executed across the region, significant quantities of Class A drugs were recovered and tens of thousands of pounds were also seized connected to the illegal supply of drugs.
Numerous people were also provided with support and referred to substance misuse services, and it is this aspect of the process I would like to focus on today.
It is absolutely vital that we, as the police, do our bit to protect communities from the impact of drug use by tackling drug supply, drug-related crime and anti-social behaviour.
An extremely important part of the process is also what comes after this though, and the work we do with partner agencies to help the vulnerable people often being exploited.
Tackling drug misuse is not just about the police putting doors in and executing warrants – whilst this is an important part of disrupting the supply, along with our partners we must also address the wider issues that bring about drug abuse in the first place and provide the ‘wrap around’ support to those who need and want it, to end the cycle that drug abuse brings and ultimately reduce the demand.
You may have heard the phrase ‘county lines’ being used in the media recently, which refers to drug dealers from large cities who expand their operations into smaller towns.
They endeavour to exploit young and vulnerable people to sell drugs, carry cash and weapons – bringing violence, coercion and abuse. They may also take over a vulnerable person’s house – known as ‘cuckooing’ – and use it to deal drugs.
Those who usually become vulnerable to cuckooing are lonely, isolated and drug users themselves. In fact, dealers usually offer them free drugs as a way of getting into the victims home. The property is then used to deal and manufacture drugs for a short period of time before the dealer moves onto somewhere new.
Providing people with support in relation to housing, health and employment is just some of the steps we can take to encourage those with substance and alcohol additions to seek help. Schools, health and social care services, charities and others also have a critical role in ending this evil practice and we will continue to work closely with them.
Last week, North East Division also took part in a ‘day of action’ across Scotland, which was an opportunity to highlight county lines and explain the risks it can bring.
Part of tackling the issue is asking the public to tell us about any suspicious behaviour they see to help us identify criminals and their vulnerable victims.
I urge anyone with concerns to report them to Police Scotland or alternatively to Crimestoppers anonymously by calling 0800 555111.