Words: Dray Morgan
In a new scheme being trialled by the PSNI, contacts on drug dealers’ phones are receiving messages that detail resources for addiction support and reporting human exploitation.
Almost 2000 people in Northern Ireland have been sent a text from the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) with links and phone numbers relating to services which can help those who are vulnerable through addiction or abusive situations.
Detective Superintendant Emma Neill told ITV News that this was part of a campaign which not only looks at preventing the sale of drugs but also focuses on harm reduction for those who are most affected.
Drug seizures in Northern Ireland are up by 40 per cent in the past year due to a more stringent approach to tackling the country’s drug usage problem from both sides. Users were sent a text which read:
“This is a message from the Police Service of Northern Ireland. We have identified that this number appears in a WhatsApp group used to buy and sell controlled drugs. We appreciate that people borrow phones and this message may not apply to you. It is a criminal offence to possess or sell controlled drugs. If you do need support please visit www.drugsandalcoholni.info. If you are being exploited, call the police on 101 or 999 in an emergency. If you have information regarding drug supply you wish to provide you can call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800555111 or email email@example.com.”
No further legal action will be taken against the recipients of the message as it comes as part of a “hard approach” which may be deployed throughout the UK. Contacts found on mobile phones used by drug dealers by police do not have sufficient evidence or course to be investigated by authorities.
Drug usage in Belfast has been consistently on the rise in the past decade, with record numbers of drug deaths being recorded year-on-year, with opioids being responsible for a majority of user deaths. Latest statistics from 2019, show that drug-related human trafficking cases have also risen in Northern Ireland by 25% in just one year.
Superintendent Neill said that the scheme was also part of a plan to change the perception of Police in the communities most impacted by drug misuse.
“Police reaching out and providing support is a positive step,” said Detective Neill. The Service hopes that those struggling with exploitation or addiction will feel more comfortable to approach authorities for assistance.
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