A detective leading the fight to stop dealers peddling spice on the streets of Leeds says there must also be a concerted effort to help the users into rehabilitation.
Detective Inspector Phil Jackson is part of the Leeds Serious Organised Crime Unit which has seized more than £800,000 worth of the Class B drug in the past six months or so.
The YEP reported exclusively on the work of Operation Damsondale, which this week resulted in further raids in the Harehills and Gipton areas of the city.
“We’ve been alive to the issue with spice for some time and my team has been supporting the overt side,” Detective Inspector Jackson said.
“Those neighbourhood policing officers have been the presence in the city centre and we’ve been working covertly to try to identify the dealers.
“We receive intelligence and then we work to confirm that. In fairness, you don’t need to look far if you go into Leeds city centre. We know who’s taking the drugs because we see them on the floor or congregating in certain areas, but then it’s about identifying those who are supplying. There are some people that are making a lot of money from this.”
He said not everyone who using spice in the city centre was necessarily homeless, but dealers saw the various people leading street lifestyles as a being captive audience.
“When we’ve been down there doing our intelligence gathering work we’ve seen on some days three paramedics, ambulances, street triage teams all tied up for hours on end,” he said.
“It’s endless – and you can see the cost of it to the local economy is huge.
“Arresting the suppliers will create a dent and stop some of the flow, but we’ve also got to think about the users and look at other ways to signpost them into rehabilitation and supported accommodation.”
He said those selling the drug are not just dealing spice, adding: “They’ve seen a market in the city centre but they’ve got other opportunities on the estate where they live and they’ll supply amphetamine or cocaine there.”