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Police / Fighting illegal drugs ‘the absolute priority’ of local police force

Chief inspector Paul Daley. Photo: Hans J Marter/Shetland News

INTERRUPTING the constant flow of illegal drugs into Shetland will continue to be one of the top priorities of the local police force, according to new area commander chief inspector Paul Daley.

Daley described Shetland’s drugs problems as no different to any other town and city in Scotland, and said police – ”together with partner agencies” – were tackling the issue on a number of fronts from education to enforcement.

But he declined to discuss the merits of a recent proposal by the local branch of the Scottish Greens to consider, among many other health measures, the introduction of safer drugs consumption facilities in Lerwick.

He said he was aware of the proposals and suggested that the appropriate forum for these to be discussed would be the community safety partnership SaferShetland, which is chaired by his predecessor chief inspector Lindsay Tulloch.

Daley said Police Scotland was involved in assessing “emerging strategies in a public health approach” and thus improving public safety.

“I am sure that is the forum for a wider debate and I will contribute to that debate,” he said.

Scotland has the highest death rate from drugs misuse anywhere in Europe. In 2019, a record 1,264 deaths were recorded, more than twice as many as in 2014. Scotland’s drug-death rate is around three and half times that of the UK as a whole.

The latest statistics show that the likelihood of dying from drugs misuse was five deaths per 100,000 people – much lower than the Scottish average of 23 per 100,000 people. Yet there were two drug related deaths in Shetland in 2019.

Just days into his new job, Delay witnessed colleagues seize heroin in Lerwick with an estimated street value of £135,000. At the time he said he was “taken aback” by the level of drugs recovery.

Speaking to Shetland News earlier this week Daley, who has worked in Shetland previously, first as sergeant and then as a police inspector, said the battle against illegal drugs was “an absolute priority”.

“We really would like to work in partnership with the community to try do what we can to minimise it,” he said.

“We are extremely fortunate in Shetland that we have the Dogs Against Drugs charity to work with us on the frontline in terms of drugs coming into the isles.

“We have removed packages very, very regularly from the post office, so we know that that’s a supply line of drugs into the isles, and we are active in that.

“But clearly, the police force alone can’t stop drugs coming in to the isles, we need intelligence and information coming in; that is the lifeblood of good community policing.

“If you know where it is happening, where it is coming in, please let us know. Once we get that information we can then act and try to intercept that.

“We are an island community, there is the ferry, the plane and umpteen ports around Shetland, we really need to be led by the information that is received from the public.”

He added police officers have been involved in giving educational chats on the dangers of drugs to around 700 school kids at the Anderson High School recently.