People who use cocaine, cannabis and ecstasy on nights out in Wiltshire will be targeted by police this winter in a significant joint operation by five police forces.
Operation Scorpion – instigated by five Police and Crime Commissioners in the South West – harnesses the collective powers of all police forces to disrupt drug crime and will see a shift in focus this time around with police engaging drug users as well as dealers in the latest iteration.
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.
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. Multiple arrests and drugs seizures are anticipated.
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’.
Wiltshire PCC Philip Wilkinson said: “Wiltshire is not a soft option for those who choose to blight our county with illegal drugs – recent operations to dismantle and disrupt drugs supplies have been proving successful, as well as increased opportunities to rehabilitate offenders and drug abusers will have a positive effect on our communities.
“Middle class drug use – or dabbling in recreational use at weekends - isn’t harmless fun, and the wider community are often left to deal with the very real consequences, including the exploitation of vulnerable people and children to move drugs around the country alongside the increasing violence which goes hand-in-hand with drug gangs.
“All those who partake in the illegal drugs trade have blood on their hands, and no longer will they be able to seek benefit from the exploitation of vulnerable people.”
David Sidwick is Dorset’s Police and Crime Commissioner and Association of Police and Crime Commissioners’ co-chair for Substance Misuse and Addiction.
He 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.
Mr Sidwick 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.”
Published Thursday 27 October 2022