Police Scotland’s new commanding officer for the Forth Valley area has vowed to make legal highs one of the force’s top priorities.
Chief Superintendent John Hawkins told members of Falkirk Council’s newly formed external scrutiny committee the sale and consumption of new psychoactive substances (NPS), or so-called “legal highs”, was an issue of concern and something his officers would focus on over the coming year.
He said: “The emergence of NPS, the so called legal highs, and the supply of these drugs is one of our local priorities this year. The supply of drugs have such an impact on other crimes.
“Legal highs are not controlled drugs so it’s not an offence to be in possession of them. When laws are passed making these drugs illegal, the drug producers simply change some the chemicals to make it legal again. We play catch up, but will always be lagging behind on this.
“We have had incidents where juveniles have had a bad reaction after consuming these substances. In these cases we have found out who supplied them and charged them with reckless behaviour.
“This is something we need to continue to work on in partnership with other organisations. This is not unique to this area – it is going on throughout Scotland. The amount of intelligence coming from the community has been superb.”
Chief Inspector Mandy Paterson, Falkirk area commander, added: “We carry out regular visits to premises with trading standards officers and patrol near these shops to ensure there are no children consuming these substances.
“People who would say no to heroin are thinking they are taking something safe. Just because something is legal does not make it safe.”
Ch Supt Hawkins and Ch Insp Paterson were giving members of the committee an overview of the police performance in the Falkirk area from April 2014 to March 2015.
The police commitment to geting the message out about the dangers of NPS was backed up by the legal high information session scheduled to take place at Denny High School today (Thursday) with school liaison officer Iain Taylor.
Priority areas for officers over 2014/15 included protecting people and places, dealing with antisocial behaviour, violent crime, disrupting organised crime, crimes of dishonesty and making roads safer.
Most of these issues remain priorities for the coming year.
Ch Supt Hawkins, said that there had been an 5.9 per cent drop in the number of crimes in the area, meaning they had decreased by 324 from 5479 in 2013/14 to 5155.
He added: “We’re having a greater number of reporting of historical crimes of indecency and that shows complainers now have the confidence to come forward and report these crimes.
“We have a very high detection rate for both crimes of indecency and hate crimes.”
A total of 14 serious assaults – attacks which result in scarring or serious injury – were reported, the same total as last year, while minor assaults increased by 1.3 per cent from 1933 to 1959.
In a bid to help cut down on these violent crimes the controversial practice of stop searches was utilised by officers, with 26 positive stop searches recorded.
Ch Supt Hawkins said: “We have always said stop searches should be an intelligence-led activity. If we have an individual we know to be violent and who is known to carry weapons, and we feel we have cause to carry out a stop search, then officers will carry it out.”