Police set to target recreational drug users in winter crackdown

Dorset Police carrying out drugs raids earlier in the year. Picture: Dorset Police
Dorset Police carrying out drugs raids earlier in the year. Picture: Dorset Police

People who use cocaine, cannabis and ecstasy on nights out are set to be targeted by police this winter as part of a crackdown on recreational drugs.

Operation Scorpion - a joint operation by six police forces - will see a shift in focus with police engaging with drug users as well as dealers.

Drug users will be offered help and support and encouraged to consider the harmful effects of drugs on health and the violence and criminality involved in the supply chain.

Avon & Somerset, Dorset, Devon & Cornwall, Wiltshire and Gloucester forces will be joined by British Transport Police for a series of crackdowns on the night-time economy.

Operational locations and exact timings are being kept under wraps but city and town centres across the region will be the focus of activity from November.

The five force Commissioners are challenging the term ‘recreational’ often used to describe drugs like cocaine and cannabis, saying they prefer to describe them as ‘illegal gateway drugs’.

Dorset Police and Crime Commissioner and Association of Police and Crime Commissioners’ co-chair for Substance Misuse and Addiction, David Sidwick, is among those who have called for a review of the classification of cannabis, arguing that the harm it does to society is greatly under-estimated.

He said: “All of the five regional forces and commissioners are working together to help protect our residents and communities from the harm that illegal drugs do.

“I would ask those who take illegal drugs or think that ‘drug taking’ is no big deal, and that it doesn’t do any ‘real harm’ to think again and maybe consider those vulnerable children who are ‘groomed’ into selling cannabis or MDMA, those who are subjected to the practices of modern slavery by organised crime groups to produce the drugs you may take at the weekend and those who are treated with violence and intimidation to make sure you have your ‘fix’ - there is absolutely nothing ‘recreational’ about any of that.”

“And that is leaving aside the risk of psychosis, cancer, birth defects and a myriad of other possibilities depending on your poison. There is a reason these drugs are illegal and it is about the harm they do to individuals, families and communities.

“Illegal drug use is just that – illegal - and the partners of Op. Scorpion will continue to work together - targeting criminality, taking drugs off our streets, sharing intelligence, protecting the vulnerable and putting a ring of steel around the South West.”

He previously told the Echo that "cannabis is not the benign drug those seeking to make a profit would have you believe."