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Mandela Gardens drug swoop

By Katia Harston, Chief Reporter Tuesday 22nd April 2014

SIX people were searched for illegal drugs and legal highs when police swooped on Mandela Gardens.

The park, next to the Civic on Hanson Street, has become a top priority for the town centre policing team following reports of a spike antisocial behaviour in the area, which has been linked to a shop in the nearby Arcade selling legal highs.

Officers were joined on the operation last Friday by police dog handler PC Paul Brackpool and his drugs detection dog Duke, who drew attention to five men and a woman gathered at the side of the Civic building.

PC Brackpool said: "There was a strong smell of cannabis on the approach and when the dog went down the line he indicated on them all."

All six were searched and spoken to by officers who seized cannabis and a packet of legal highs from the group.

PC Brackpool said legal highs, which are not for human consumption and usually sold as herbal incense, bath salts or plant food, are 'just as bad as normal drugs' but are not something detection dogs like Duke are trained to sniff out.

Sgt Andy Norton, from the town centre policing team, said: "Because we've got a substance here that's been seized that looks like cannabis, it will be sent off for testing to see if it is a legal high or has been mixed with cannabis.

"There was no-one underage today but previously we have had them as young as 13 down here who've been taken home or to hospital because they're under the influence of some psychoactive substance or drug.

"I do know a number of ambulances have been linked with this location. Police officers are also taking people up to the hospital as well. Every time a police officer or an ambulance comes here it takes them away from crime prevention or an emergency."