£1m drug haul seized by council-funded police teams in Borders last year was up 75-fold on year before, report reveals

Two council-funded police teams in the Borders seized more than £900,000 worth of drugs last year, according to new figures.

By Joseph Anderson, Local Democracy Reporter
Tuesday, 29th September 2020, 10:51 am
Members of the Borders' first and second police community action teams.
Members of the Borders' first and second police community action teams.

That haul was nearly 75 times the value of the £12,500 worth of illicit drugs seized the year before by the first community action team launched by as a joint venture by Scottish Borders Council and Police Scotland in April 2018.

It was followed by a second such team in September last year, and a meeting of the council’s audit and scrutiny committee yesterday, September 20, was given an update on their performance so far.

That report – written by safer communities and community justice manager Graham Jones – revealed that the two teams – made up of 12 constables overseen by two sergeants – prevented £931,497 worth of narcotics from reaching the streets of the region’s towns and villages.

It reads: “The community action teams have made significant inroads into addressing drug issues throughout the Borders and built on initial successes in 2018-19 with a number of significant drug seizures in 2019-20.

“The value of drugs seized is approaching £1m and the effective targeting of persons and premises has accounted for an increased percentage of successful searches.

“This is important as success reflects the quality of intelligence.

“Drug recoveries make a significant contribution to the removal of community risk and harm.”

The two teams cost the local authority £550,000 a year.

During 2018-19, the first community police team issued 884 parking tickets and conducted 127 positive drug searches, but those figures fell last year to 742 and 115 respectively.

The doubling of the initiative’s manpower led to the number of hours spent patrolling in cars and pounding the beat on foot rising from 589 to 1,046 and 335 to 585 respectively last year, however.

According to the report, that extra headcount also allows for greater visibility at seasonal festivals and shows, though the coronavirus pandemic has led to almost all such events being cancelled this year.

It explains: “The cultural and sporting events held across the Borders provide an opportunity for the teams to engage with local communities and also to take a proactive stance in relation to issues such as underage drinking and antisocial behaviour.

“For example, at the 2019 Stowed Out Festival the teams were engaging with festival attendees in the wider environs of the event that were away from the designated event area.

“They also intervened post-event when large numbers of people were still present in the area to safely disperse festival goers.

“Opportunistic crime can also be prevalent at some events, and the teams have supported local community police officers by enhancing visibility at these events.

“For example, in Innerleithen cycle theft prevention was a major focus of the team, but dealing with constituency complaints associated with large gatherings such as parking issues and misuse of footpaths by cyclists was also addressed.”