Over the last few weeks I have been concentrating on the organised criminal groups that we face in Gloucestershire. Sadly, we have them in every one of our six districts. These groups tend to be involved with a range of criminal activity, such as vehicle theft, drug dealing, or money laundering.
Then there are the less well organised urban street gangs, which are becoming even more of a concern, as they tend to be more reckless and unpredictable in their street behaviour, often leading to spontaneous episodes of extreme violence, involving weapons. We also have our County Lines drug gangs operating remotely from places like Bristol, Birmingham or as far afield as London, feeding illicit drugs into our communities, often through vulnerable youngsters.
Definitely worrying. But our Constabulary work night and day to track these criminals, gain intelligence on what they are doing, then take action to control the threat. An exciting new development is the deployment of highly trained officers to reinforce each of our operational policing areas. This gives local neighbourhood policing teams more resources to strike at these organised criminals, in force and frequently, to disrupt their activities. This deployment is a direct result of all the extra recruitment we are doing to strengthen our Constabulary.
‘Op Scorpion’ seized £130,000 of illegal drugs and made multiple arrests
Given that many of our organised criminals deliberately operate across police force boundaries, I work closely with my fellow Commissioners across the South West to make sure our forces prioritise these organised criminals. We have already conducted one joint operation this year, against drug dealers operating within our communities, involving all five forces in the South West. In Gloucestershire alone, ‘Operation Scorpion’ seized £130,000 of illegal drugs and made multiple arrests.
Illegal drug use across the country seems to be becoming more of a problem. I recently attended a major drug summit in London, to participate in national discussions about how multiple agencies could work together to take a ‘public health approach’ to illegal drug use, and disrupt the demand within our communities for so called ‘recreational drugs’ such as cannabis and cocaine. The significant minority participating in such activities may think health risks are exaggerated but without doubt, their actions fuel the dangerous organised gangs operating in our communities.
I will be working with the Constabulary to make sure they pay more attention to discouraging such recreational drug use.