Pubs and clubs have been provided with drug detection kits in a crackdown on cocaine use.
Police and the council have joined forces in the crackdown, which has been inspired by the Observer’s campaign highlighting the dangers of the drug.
It comes after we warned that the borough’s nightspots are being ‘flooded’ with the killer drug.
Licensed premises have been handed packs of ‘cocaine wipes’, which function as a drug detection kit and serve to deter and prevent substance abuse. The programme has gone on trial in Clayton-le-Moors, but could be rolled out across the whole borough.
Last month, we reported warnings from a drug treatment charity that cocaine was ‘ingrained’ in the borough’s nightlife. Following our reports, Lancashire Police and last year’s Mayor Tim O’Kane are taking direct action to promote a strict no-tolerance policy, using leftover Mayoral funding.
Licensing sergeant Jason Singleton helped Coun O’Kane distribute the cocaine wipes and explain their uses.
He said: “The Observer’s campaign is good at raising awareness of cocaine as an issue. It is amongst us and we have all got a part to play to make sure that people aren’t ending up dead from this.
“There is an issue with drugs, in particular cocaine, in licensed premises in Hyndburn and this is a move that will go towards making those premises drug-free areas.
“The wipes are like a normal wet wipe, but they go blue when they touch a surface that has had cocaine on.
“So if a licensee has concerns because someone seems to be going to the toilets too often they can use these wipes to see if there has been cocaine taken there. It’s a deterrent and it shows that licensees are ready to challenge people to get it to stop.”
The wipes can also be used on items such as mobile phones to detect whether people have been handling the drug.
Coun O’Kane said he had wanted to begin a ‘worthwhile initiative’ to support the police. He said: “When I saw the Observer’s report about the cocaine deaths it just fitted so we authorised the funding.
"We are going to evaluate it over the next few months to see whether we can roll it out to the rest of Hyndburn. I am quite confident that we can make it an ongoing thing, and there is a potential for funding from different sources.”
He added: “Nobody realises just how dangerous it is until it’s too late. It makes people fearless, makes people feel like they can attack anyone and endangers the community as well as themselves. We have to realise that we have a problem, and by cracking down on cocaine in pubs and bars we hope to make a difference
“We’ll just have to see how much difference we can make. But we know that these schemes can be a real asset and add to the deterrent effect.”
The Observer has launched a campaign to highlight the devastating toll that cocaine is taking on our communities.
We have joined forces with coroner Michael Singleton to launch our Killer Cocaine: Stop the Deaths campaign after he warned that deaths caused by this evil drug have reached epidemic levels.
In the last nine months alone the number of people officially recorded as having lost their lives in the Hyndburn area as a result of using cocaine has risen to 17. The youngest was 16, the oldest just 33.
These are just the cases to have reached the coroner and it is thought that the actual number could be much higher.
Mr Singleton is at a loss to explain why this epidemic is occurring here and now in Accrington, but it is thought increased availability or a drop in price could be to blame.
We are calling on all sections of the Hyndburn community to pull together to take this evil drug off our streets. So please watch out for signs of cocaine use, make sure your loved ones are aware of the dangers and give the police the information they need to bring down the dealers profiting from this deadly powder.
What you can do to help:
l Educate yourself and others – National organisations such as Frank offer detailed explanations of what the short-term and long-term effects of drug use are and the risks.
l Talk openly about it –
Speak to friends and family and create an honest dialogue about drug use.
l Spot signs of use –
Cocaine can change people’s personality. In the short term cocaine can make a user feel confident and wide awake. But repeated use can cause agitated behaviour, mood swings, severe addiction and heart attacks.
l Offer support – If you are concerned someone you know is taking cocaine, offer support or encourage them to get help.
l Seek help and advice – Confidential 24-hour chatlines and local services are open for anyone with concerns.
l Alert police – if you suspect someone might be dealing drugs, tell police on 101 or anonymously by calling Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.