Bedfordshire PCC wants sniffer dogs in pubs to tackle ‘drugs epidemic’

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Bono HMP Bedford sniffer dog
Sniffer dogs, like Bono have recently been used to seek out contraband in HMP Bedford

Bedfordshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner has said he’d like to see more sniffer dogs in pubs and bars to tackle the ‘drugs epidemic’.

Festus Akinbusoye told the Police and Crime Panel on Tuesday (7 December) that recreational drug users are contributing to the problem that is costing the police force and taxpayers money.

And at the meeting he repeated the view he shared earlier in the week on social media: “Personally, I would actually like to see more of our police officers using sniffer dogs in some of our pubs and our bars.

“Because, let’s be quite frank, [these are] some of the places where you’ve seen a lot of drugs being used.

“I hear that when I’m going about some of our communities, but that’s an operational decision for the chief and his team to come up with.

“But we can’t lose sight of the fact that the drug epidemic in our communities that is costing our police force and taxpayers a lot of money, is also being caused by people who are making a lifestyle choice, and not an addiction choice,” he said.

The PCC was responding to a question from councillor Amjid Ali (Luton Borough Council), who was keen to know how much money would be coming to Bedfordshire following the government’s launch of its ten-year drug strategy.

It said the new strategy, published on Monday, will give communities across England a share of funding for drug treatment services and will reduce crime by “helping to reverse the upward trend in drug use”.

Councillor Ali asked: “Are you aware, or is your office aware, of how much money is being allocated to Bedfordshire, and do you have a plan at this moment on how that money will be spent?”

Mr Akinbusoye told the Panel that Bedfordshire Police’s deputy chief constable, Trevor Rodenhurst, played a part in shaping the new policy.

“We’re very proud to have one of the shapers of the government’s response to this issue in our force,” he said.

“About £145 million will be going towards the county lines program nationally, and I think about £80 million pounds will be going towards drugs treatment.

“I don’t know yet how much is going to come to Bedfordshire,” he added.

Mr Akinbusoye said he’d be surprised if Bedfordshire didn’t receive any of the funding, but it wasn’t clear which services would be given a share.

“Because of the public health approach, much of this might be going to the hospital, the public health services, and some might be going to local authorities.

“But some might be coming to the police, in which case we’ll then figure out how that is going to be allocated through commissioned services.

“An important thing to bear in mind is that in Bedfordshire we cannot arrest everybody who is a drug addict,” he said.

The Panel was told that in 2019 around 34,000 people admitted to using just cannabis and cocaine in the county.

“We don’t have that many prison cells here,” the PCC said.

He added that some of the drug users need help, and not just enforcement.

“But the bigger issue, which I have been banging on about from day one, is that, yes those addicts need help, but there are those people who are using drugs in our communities, in our affluent areas, as a casual pastime as a “victimless” practice,” he said.

“We need to deal with those people, and some of the announcements the government made yesterday about penalties would be for those people.”

by John Guinn
Local Democracy Reporter

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