Winning the battle that’s never-ending
IN the last few weeks drug squad officers have carried out raids on homes through East Cambridgeshire. These raids were led by Cambridgeshire police detective chief inspector, Gary Ridgeway, who talked exclusively to LESLEY INNES about the fight against d
IN the last few weeks drug squad officers have carried out raids on homes through East Cambridgeshire.
These raids were led by Cambridgeshire police detective chief inspector, Gary Ridgeway, who talked exclusively to LESLEY INNES about the fight against drugs in the region.
DRUG addicts live day-by-day just looking for the next fix of heroin or crack cocaine.
They will do whatever it takes to feed their habit - and often that means committing crime just to get enough cash to pay the dealer.
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Cambridgeshire police know that if they can tackle drugs on the streets they can solve a high proportion of crime throughout the county.
"We recognise that drugs aren't just a problem in major cities," said detective chief inspector, Ridgeway. "They do generally affect all levels of society.
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"There is a high level of criminality around crack cocaine and heroin use. Shoplifting and opportunist theft is linked to it and that crime has an impact on the community. There is also a link to organised crime.
"We can improve the quality of life in an area by dismantling the drugs' markets."
Officers work closely with the Cambridgeshire Drug and Alcohol Action Team, drugs intervention programme and the mental health trust.
DCI Ridgeway has 20 years' service with the force and claims there has been a real shift in the last five years in how police tackle the drug problem.
He said: "As DCI I am expected to respond to the needs of the community and that means when I make a bid for the budget I need to show how that money is going to be spent to help the community. I have to be very proactive as to how that money will be used.
"There has certainly been an increase in the awareness of drugs as a cause of crime. They are a major contributor.
"In the 80s, ecstasy in the dance scene just didn't exist and crack cocaine is a relatively new phenomenon. The drugs' market is evolving and we in the police service expect a good proportion of crimes to be linked to drug use and trafficking.
"Schools are tackling the problem and the community is working with us and that is the way forward for the police. We are telling our partners, our community drugs teams, what is going on and there is more co-operation."
DCI Ridgeway added that there is a perception amongst some members of the public that cannabis is an acceptable, recreational drug. They see it as low risk.
"But I know the damage it can do to peoples' lives and bodies," he said. "People need to understand the chemicals linked to cannabis and how just the heat from it damages your lungs. We are seeing skunk cannabis which is a real hallucinogen and leads to mental health problems in later life.
"But that is not necessarily the best stance to take with youngsters. We have to try to have a sensible conversation with them about drugs rather than trying to demonise drug use."
He added that the police are targeting cannabis factories and cannabis dealing.
"If we can dismantle the drugs markets it gives addicts the chance to grab the opportunity to get some support from the agencies that are out there to help them," added DCI Ridgeway.
"I think we all have a level of responsibility and it is clear that the community is stepping up to partnership working."
INFORMATION: For drugs information or help contact the Cambridgeshire Drug and Alcohol Action Team on 01223 718225 or visit its website at: www.cambsdaat.org
Contact Talk to Frank on 0800 776600 or visit the website at www.talktofrank.com