Posted: Mon 13th Jul 2020

Police urged to tackle ‘epidemic’ of public drug taking in Flintshire

News and Info from Deeside, Flintshire, North Wales
This article is old - Published: Monday, Jul 13th, 2020

Police have been urged to tackle an “epidemic” of public drug taking in Flintshire.

It follows concerns being raised about incidents across some of the county’s main towns, including Buckley, Holywell, Connah’s Quay and Shotton.

A senior councillor said he had even been contacted about drug users openly injecting themselves in front of parents and children on their way to school.

The issue was raised at a Flintshire Council scrutiny meeting today, where community leaders met to discuss the renewal of two Public Space Protection Orders (PSPOs).

The measures are aimed at protecting people from problem drinkers in public locations, as well as dealing with dog fouling.

However, Cllr Dennis Hutchinson questioned whether the powers could be extended to cover drug taking as well after he highlighted evidence of illegal substance use in the Higher Common area of Buckley.

He said: “It is an epidemic in certain parts of our county and it’s been mentioned about Connah’s Quay.

“Unfortunately, it’s happening everywhere and with the greatest respect to officers and the police, nothing seems to be getting done, particularly with the police.

“At the end of the day, they are the people who make the arrests and prosecutions.

“Let’s get to grips with it because it’s our young people who are being targeted by out of town gangs and goodness know what else.

“It’s extremely important that we get to grips with it and sort it out.

“It’s not going to take five minutes, it’s going to take a hell of a lot longer than that, but at least this may be the first steps.”

The local authority has previously drawn attention to the exploitation of children by criminal gangs in Flintshire.

The area has been badly hit by the growing influx of county lines gangs from big cities, who police say are responsible for roping vulnerable youngsters into trafficking drugs.

Cllr Chris Bithell, who sits on the council’s ruling Labour cabinet, said drug taking was one of the biggest issues raised with him by constituents.

Speaking at the virtual environment scrutiny committee meeting, he said: “The problem several years ago was drinking in public places.

“That might well still be a problem, but I think it’s been surpassed now by the taking of drugs in public places.

“I’ve had mail from residents in the county concerned about this, where people are shooting up in the streets with illegal drugs in full view of passers-by, including people going shopping and taking children to school.

“I think it’s something we do need to discuss with our partners in North Wales Police as to whether we can deal with this particular issue and confiscate drugs from people who are doing this in public.”
A representative from the police force confirmed drug taking and dealing were crimes it took seriously.

Inspector Siobhan Edwards, who was present for the meeting, added a significant amount of police time was being put into stopping county lines gangs.

She said: “With regards to what has been mentioned, it comes under county lines and it is one of the force priorities to tackle that.

“As correctly identified, it’s not something we can solve overnight. It is something we have to keep chipping away at.

“We’re working with Merseyside Police and the National Crime Agency as well, to make sure we are apprehending those that are bringing drugs into the area.

“We’ve also identified there are unfortunately a lot of drug users and suppliers in our area.”

The inspector said it needed to be acknowledged that some drug users were susceptible to becoming victims of modern slavery or “cuckooing”, which is a form of crime where dealers take over the home of a vulnerable person.

She said the force was looking to provide support to those who are targeted with covert policing methods being used to take gangs down.

Committee members voted in favour of going to consultation on extending the PSPOs for a further three years at the end of the meeting.

They also added a recommendation for drug taking to be added into the issues to be addressed using the powers.

Liam Randall – Local Democracy Reporter (more here).

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