A lengthy statement explaining the issues the town faces with so called ‘legal highs’ has been posted online by Wrexham Council – with the message that while work is being done to tackle the problem, it is “bigger than any single organisation’.
Issues with substances such as ‘spice’ and ‘mamba’ in the town centre have been well-documented for sometime, however such problems all came to ahead in March this year when a series of images dating from 2015 onwards made national news.
Since then usage of New Psychoactive Substances (formerly known as legal highs) issues with antisocial behaviour in the town have become a regular topic of discussion on social media, in national and local press – along with featuring in council meetings, recent campaign trails and the Town Centre Forum.
There have been numerous calls for Wrexham Council and North Wales Police in particular to ‘take action and do something’ to tackle the problems, with fears for the safety of those taking the substances and the reputation of the town centre.
Last week Wrexham Council published a lengthy statement about the issues synthetic drugs pose to towns and cities across the country, as well as highlighting the work that is being undertaken locally.
The statement (which can be viewed in full here) explains that substances such as spice and mamba are cheaper and often much more powerful than heroin and cannabis. They’re also easier to get hold of, and harder to identify.
Last year new legislation was introduced to specifically focus on tackling the sale, production and misuse of then ‘legal highs’ such as ‘spice’ and ‘mamba’
Previously such substances, which were also rebranded as NPS (New Psychoactive Substances or Novel Psychoactive Substances) could be purchased openly in shops or online. However under the Psychoactive Substances Act 2016 those found producing, supplying and importing NPS could face seven years imprisonment.
There have been questions as to whether the legislation works, goes far enough or if it has created further issues. This is also highlighted by Wrexham Council, who note that in many ways NPS are harder to police than the old-style drugs.
Within the statement posted online, Cllr Hugh Jones, Wrexham Council’s Lead Member for Communities, Partnerships, Public Protection and Community Safety, explains that the issue is ‘bigger than Wrexham Council and than any other single organisation’.
In recent months there has been a ‘pulling together’ of resources locally, with the likes of Wrexham Council, North Wales Police and various voluntary agencies working together to try and directly help those being affected by substance misuse.
So far two events have taken place to help bring together the relevant agencies and the ‘vulnerable cohort’ of people who are in need of support. Branded as ‘everyone in a room, including substance users’ the events, which have taken place in the Salvation Army and Trinity Church, aim to gently force’ those in need of assistance to interact with support workers and the relevant agencies.
So far the events have been described as a ‘groundbreaking’ multi-agency approach, with hopes that similar initiatives can take place in the future and provide further assistance to those in need.
More recently it was noted by Cllr Jones at this month’s Town Centre Forum that a ‘Gold Command Group’ had been established, with an interim plan developed specifically to help those on the homeless camp that has been setup in the grounds of the former Groves school.
We’re told that full details of the plan will not be made public, however at this month’s meeting it was noted that the location is seen as a ‘temporary measure’ and that having the ‘service users in one place gives the opportunity to provide a long-term plan’.
This was reiterated last week when elements of the plan were released, stating:
– The council will continue with security patrols to help keep the nearby building secure.
– Police will continue to respond to calls, patrol the perimeter and liaise with local residents.
– Health and third-sector outreach workers will visit the site seven-days-a week – during the daytime and evenings – to try and engage the people camping there, and encourage them to accept help.
In his statement posted online, Cllr Jones adds: “People might think that nothing is happening, and it’s easy to understand why – they might come into Wrexham town centre and see people whose lives are being ruined by these horrible drugs.
“But things are happening and there are people doing incredible work – police officers, health professionals and others.
“We’re in this together and trying to face it head-on.”