Combatting drugs should be top policing priority in the islands

​Measures to combat the “alarming” growth of illegal drug trafficking and use should become the main policing priority in the Western Isles – and more than one sniffer dog is needed.
Police in the Western Isles are advised to concentrate more on tackling drugs misuse.Police in the Western Isles are advised to concentrate more on tackling drugs misuse.
Police in the Western Isles are advised to concentrate more on tackling drugs misuse.

These are the views of Comhairle nan Eilean Siar’s community safety board who were asked to respond to Police Scotland’s plan for policing the islands over the next three years. The board has rejected Police Scotland’s assumption that road traffic issues should remain the main local priority.

They also believe that youth offending throughout Western Isles communities, but particularly in Stornoway, should be a higher police priority and say that this reflects the view of constituents. The board is made up of elected members of the Comhairle and chaired by Councillor George Murray.

A submission agreed by the board last week said: “As there is only one drugs dog for the whole of the Western Isles this makes monitoring on each island more difficult. There is a vast coastline to be monitored against drugs entering the islands, as well as the postal route.

“A dedicated drugs dog for both type of searches would provide more resilience, and there is some crossover with safeguarding our vast coastline around the Terrorism and Public Order priority. As drugs supply/possession figures have increased rapidly over the last year this should be one of the top local priorities.

“While the Community Safety Board supports a continuing focus on road safety, the proliferation of illegal drugs across the islands is alarming and warrants the promotion of ‘Serious and Organised Crime’ to become the main local policing priority”.

The board also tells Police Scotland that youth offending should be a higher priority for island policing. Their response stated: “A foot patrol officer for Stornoway was sought but the board were advised that there is no resource for this. Failure to provide a foot patrol officer is unacceptable to the board in view of the growing incidence of youth offending in and around Stornoway.

“Local residents have indicated to elected members that they intend highlighting the growing youth offending crisis in the media. The high recorded number of assaults on police officers in the Western Isles may indicate a lack of trust between sections of the community and police. The provision of foot patrol officers would go some way to address this issue”

On the growing problem of on-line fraud, the board noted that islands may be particularly vulnerable because of the comparatively elderly population. It commented: “As banking fraud is high in the Western Isles it was reassuring to be informed that police officers will attend Community Council meetings regularly, and that there are School Liaison Officers available.”