A worrying trend highlighted in the survey results has been the level of concern raised about substance misuse and in particular drug dealing. 73% of respondents have indicated that they are either greatly or fairly concerned about drug dealers. This presents an enormous challenge for the local community safety strategy and requires the attention of our statutory services, voluntary & community organisations, and the problematic drug users themselves. The conundrum between supply and demand will continue at both a prevention and at an enforcement level whilst also acknowledging that the manifestations of the selling and purchasing of drugs are many and complex. Where a local community led safety strategy can play a significant role can be with the prevention of our young people getting drawn into problematic drug use in the first instance. This may be achieved through supporting and developing in partnership with them, appropriate educational resources and prevention activities through providing youth work approaches that promote resilience, social skills and the confidence for our young people to make the right choices in often difficult and challenging circumstances. There can be a role for Falkirk Council and our local community hubs with delivering quality youth work provision and there can be direct workshop inputs and projects delivered by community volunteers and the community safety engager It would be naïve to expect the demand for dangerous drugs to reduce in the short term through a programme of education and preventative activities however this requires to be an important strand to any strategy that is developed with the local community.
Finding oneself in a situation where you have developed a problematic dependency upon drugs must be devastating for the user, their family, friends, neighbours and indeed the local community. The social costs of drug dependency are significant: through the legal and criminal costs and through the impact upon our health and care services. The emotional and mental health impacts will resonate beyond the user and will have negative effects upon others through the dealing of the drugs and the consumption of the drugs within the local community. Clearly a local strategy will need to take into consideration these associated factors. I will therefore endeavour to involve the specialist drugs agencies, Falkirk Council and also charities like the Cyrenians and SACRO who carry out invaluable work locally with people touched by the criminal justice system and through providing support to those with dependency and ongoing offending problems. I feel we need to be able to see beyond the labels and stigmatisation of being involved with problematic drug use and simultaneously living often challenging and chaotic lifestyles. We need to be able to actively involve everybody with the solutions to making our community a safer and better place to live and work.
Any local Community Safety Strategy addressing this concern will be reliant upon the enforcement of the law. This will represent a significant strand to reducing the negative impacts of local drug misuse and the problems arising directly from the selling of drugs. I have been in communication with the local community police officers and clearly, they will play a key role with developing and confirming our local strategy. I can see from the SIMD data for the local neighbourhoods where the problems are likely to be and I believe that there are specific locations that are of local concern. Off course the Police rely upon the reporting of crime and I understand that this is an extremely sensitive and complex issue. I fully appreciate why local people may be reluctant to report issues relating to drug misuse, especially if it involves your immediate neighbours and places you go and use yourself.
The challenge ahead is significant and fraught with problems, however with the right partners involved and crucially the willingness of the local community to get involved then we can implement an effective community safety strategy that will address some of the local concerns about substance misuse. An important aspect of this will be to form and possibly constitute a local community safety forum which has local people , community groups and agencies all working together in order to develop programmes and activities which will go some way to addressing the local priorities for community safety. I will look at this notion of a local community safety forum in a future blog but again this approach will only be effective if it is driven forward by the local community for the local community.
To conclude this week’s Blog I will highlight the work of an organisation called Fearless, I believe some of their approaches and community based initiatives can be replicated locally and can be adapted and adopted to our own particular set of circumstances. What we often see as problems can become part of the solution and the resources and skills to deal with issues at a community level often lie within that community itself.
Please could you complete a local survey, the responses are of great assistance in identifying and confirming the local community safety priorities and our future activity will be developed around these priorities. If you complete a survey by Friday 7th August, then you can be entered into our prize draw and you can win yourself a brand-new Tablet.