THE pandemic has helped police tackle drug deaths in the Scottish city with the highest tally because lockdown made addicts more visible to emergency teams, a senior officer has said.

Superintendent Gary I’Anson, who is heading up a new strategy which aims to take a more compassionate approach to problem drug use in Glasgow rather than automatic enforcement, said the public health crisis had also helped focus emergency teams involved in referral and treatment.

Figures show there were 1,187 drug deaths in Scotland in 2018 and the numbers for last year could be even higher.

Glasgow had the highest number of drug deaths, at 280, although the rate of death was slightly higher in Dundee.”

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Detective I’Anson has previously said officers ‘can’t arrest their way out of’ Glasgow’s drug issues.

He said it is too early for any hard data, showing the impact on drug deaths but said the response anecdotally from crisis teams on the ground, “had been favourable.

He said: “During lockdown people who used drugs were far more visible.

“The pandemic has actually helped in terms of closer working relationships. Because of that increased focus it is helping us police the right way.

“It has actually meant the the drug strategy group has met far more regularly.

“There was up to 30 of us chairing a meeting looking at particular areas of concern and considering where do we need to direct appropriate policing.

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“What that did was allow us to focus on where our increased training for officers needed to be, where the areas of concern were. 

“It meant that we were better co-ordinated, whether it was needle exchange, so they could police appropriately.

“But still carrying out enforcement activity where it was absolutely necessary.

Glasgow Times:

“What we weren’t doing was flooding an area with police officers to displace drug users therefore they couldn’t access harm reduction teams who were operating in that area.”

He said the pandemic had led to some aspects of the strategy, launched six months ago, being delayed such as a plan to put campus police officers into schools to educate pupils on drugs.

The next phase will involve former addicts being despatched into custody units to support drug users in a bid to help tackle re-offending rates.