The head of Angus policing has dubbed the legal highs scourge ‘the new heroin’ and has warned that even hard drug users are steering clear of them.
We recently spoke to Chief Inspector Gordon Milne, Local Area Commander for Angus, about the problem of so-called legal highs, or New Psychoactive Substances (NPS).
He said: “Police Scotland has been involved since the beginning, We’ve probably been involved in the issue of legal highs in Angus since October 2013. We had three shops in Angus selling this stuff, two in Arbroath and one in Montrose. What the officers were feeding back was that they were coming across this stuff every day.
“Cops themselves were coming up to us and saying ‘we need to do something about this, it’s the new heroin’.
“So we launched Operation Carinate on the three retailers operating in our area. That involved us looking at all about legal highs, not just where it comes from, but the social impact of it and how it’s being trafficked and asking the NHS what the effects are.
“What we’re finding through our Community Engagement Teams, who know most of the heroin users in Angus on a first name basis, is that they are saying that legal highs mess with their heads, and this is from people who buy drugs off the black market. They are saying this stuff is rotten and that’s meaningful in its own right.”
Police Scotland have been hard at work tackling NPS in Angus and movement from Government on the issue has been a good starting point.
C.I. Milne explained: “On April 10, when the temporary control order came out from the UK Government, five individual chemical compounds were identified in that banning order, that was quite significant.
“That’s the first time they’ve made that addition, to give us some kind of control over the market. Those chemicals were not picked out of the air, but were based on research and experience on what we’ve had here in Angus.
“As the law evolves we will continue to enforce it. The banning order is in place and we’ve made sure the head shops in Tayside, and the people involved in them, know what that means and we had letters hand delivered to them. We’ll continue to work with the Angus Alcohol and Drugs Partnership and that will improve our learning and understanding of NPS.”
The response from the Angus community has been a great help to Police Scotland and C.I. Milne is confident actions against NPS have public backing.
He said: “When we started to take a look at NPS that’s when the people in Arbroath and Montrose started to get behind us with The Angus Campaign against Legal Highs and the latest one in Forfar which has over 3,000 signatures and when we were watching this campaign getting involved it showed us that people really wanted something done about it.
“What needs to happen in Angus is to stop NPS being sold on the high street, that’s certainly my belief. I just don’t like the idea that it’s on sale next door to a chip shop, or a sweetie shop. I certainly don’t want to see Forfar opening one next to a pie shop where all the kids go at lunchtime.
“We’ve had success, two of the shops have closed in Angus, that’s a good sign. All of the learning we had in Angus is now being used by our colleagues in Dundee. Nobody comes to me from the community to say ‘stop doing this’, if anything, it’s the community that said it needed doing and we are doing what the community wants us to do.”