Hernandez recognises loss of faith in drugs' policing
Devon and Cornwall’s police and crime commissioner has suggested cannabis should become a Class A drug, like heroin and cocaine, and certainly should not be legalised.
Alison Hernandez’s comments follow a drugs’ operation that led to the arrest of 40 people in Torquay, Paignton, Teignmouth and Newton Abbot this week.
Speaking about the ‘county lines’ operation on Thursday [16 June], the commissioner praised Merseyside Police for their help in tackle county lines drug gangs.
The arrests culminated a collaboration between a Merseyside team called ‘Project Medusa’ and the South West Regional Organised Crime Unit (SW ROCU).
Ms Hernandez says working with the northern force proved very effective.
She said: “It’s been really fantastic to have Merseyside police officers come down to Devon and Cornwall to try and arrest their own people who are doing drug dealing in our community.”
“So they were looking for Liverpudlians and others but it was really great to see the efforts made by Merseyside officers.”
Commissioner Hernandez says her longer term plans are to reduce drug-related crime.
“The first thing is ensuring that the police are really focused on it as a priority,” she said.
“The second thing is … we are going to have a record number of police officers by the end of this financial year that Devon and Cornwall have ever had; 3,610.
“So we are saying, now you’ve got the people, let’s try and make sure that we’re focusing on the things that matter to the community.”
But she rejects suggestions that legalising some drugs would reduce related crime and said the law should be tougher, not softer.
“Cannabis, potentially, should probably be a class A, not a class B drug,” she said.
“The level of psychosis and actual harm to individuals by taking these drugs is so great that I would never look to legalise it.
“You could talk about the legalisation of alcohol and tobacco, but hey, we’ve still got an illicit industry in the sale of those as well. So it doesn’t even take away the black market.
Ms Hernandez admits some residents have lost faith in the police’s ability to deal with drugs and says she hopes to restore confidence in the service.
“I think our communities have stopped reporting drug dealing where they see it because they think the police aren’t going to act,” she said.
“I think that they assume that it will never go away.
“I’m in Torquay, my home town. Twenty years I’ve been around where we’ve been trying to tackle drug dealing and anti-social drug taking, and we’ve not cracked it yet.
“So this is why this Operation Medusa, of actually bringing specialist officers down, really cracking down hard on the enforcement side and then working with the communities to improve drug treatment, is the way forward.”
Chief superintendent Roy Linden, South Devon commander, also praised Merseyside Police for clamping down on drug crime and he agreed with the commissioner about establishing a good relationship between the police and the public.
“This starts and finishes with the community,” he said. “It starts on what the community tells us. Not assuming that it’s something that we already know.
“We develop that information. We provide it into our own forces. So, we target dangerous drug networks 24/7 all throughout the year.
“But when we have the opportunity to ask for support from national and regional policing colleagues, then that leads to what we’ve done over the last couple of days.”
Several kilograms of class-A drugs, vehicles and offensive weapons were sezied in this week’s operation.
Chief supt. Linden added that the intelligence they now have will help people in the future.
He said they will: “Seek what effect that has had with our partners such as public health to support those who’ve been targeted and exploited.”