By RYAN TAYLOR
A greater number of Class A drugs were seized by police in Shetland from April to December last year than Class B or C drugs.
The highest number of seizures for the isles related to heroin, followed by cannabis resin and the tranquilliser drug diazepam.
The total value of drugs seized in the isles last year came to over £182,000.
During 2008, Shetland was the only area command within Northern Constabulary to seize “crack” cocaine.
Although the figures may be alarming, police say they demonstrate a high detection rate helped by a good local level of intelligence.
Earlier this year chief inspector Malcolm Bell said he was encouraged by the level of seizures which were ongoing at the time in Shetland, and advised anyone struggling with an addiction to seek help from drug agencies or the health service.
Inspector Ross MacKillop said “significant inroads” were being made to help combat the drugs menace.
“There’s no denying Shetland does have a significant drugs problem in terms of Class A drugs, but the other side of that is through intelligence-led policing and working with our partner agencies we have made significant seizures, particularly of Class A drugs.”
He said heroin was now seen as the drug of choice in Shetland, and local support agencies such as Community Alcohol and Drugs Services Shetland (CADSS) had been collating information as to the reasons behind its growth in popularity among drug users.
“There is a drugs problem, particularly in Class A, and we are making significant inroads into solving that.”
While drug figures are still too high, Shetland is in something of a unique position in that the crime rate has not risen along with drug abuse.
In areas down south drug users feed their habits by turning to crime, however in Shetland drug users are increasingly able to hold down a job in order to fund their addiction.
“In terms of collateral crime, in relation to Class A seizures we don’t seem to have huge crime levels that would get tallied with that.
“Occasionally we do get housebreakings. They are thankfully rare but we do get incidents now and again.”
He said he was “not surprised” by the latest figures, and said they simply reflected the efforts being put into seizing Class A drugs in recent months.
“It’s very much intelligence-led, and we are targeting what we consider to be the most significant drugs issue, which is Class A drugs.”
However he added addicts who stick to other classes of drugs should not be complacent.
“We will treat the use of any illegal drug as serious,” he said.
CADSS manager Gill Hession said the extra seizures amounted to a “chicken and egg” situation, because it was difficult to tell whether demand resulted in supply or vice versa.
“Has demand for Class A drugs such as heroin and cocaine grown because more heroin and cocaine than cannabis is getting into Shetland, or is there more heroin and cocaine being brought into Shetland because the demand for it has increased?
“Either way, keeping Shetland as safe as possible from the effects of Class A drugs requires attention to both supply and demand.
“In the past there were fewer seizures so when someone was busted and the supply temporarily interrupted drug users came to us for support and treatment, motivated usually by withdrawals.
“When a couple of days later a new supply would arrive in Shetland, we would lose most of these folk to drug use again.”
She said since larger quantities were being seized – and on a more regular basis – drug users were coming round to think it was in their interests to stick in with treatment rather than “yo-yo” between drug use and withdrawal.
“I said in The Shetland Times a few years ago that the way we would be able to tell if drug seizures were having a measurable impact on problem drug use in Shetland would be if our support agency started seeing an increase in problem drug users sticking to their treatment plans.
“We have been seeing this for a while now. This is a real testament to the concerted efforts of the police and the Shetland community, from whom I assume they have gathered much of their intelligence.”