DRUG DEALERS are being warned to stay out of Saddleworth or face the consequences.
A zero-tolerance initiative to drugs and anti-social behaviour, code named Operation Sandstorm, was launched last month and will run through to the New Year.
Police, local licensees, councillors, community leaders and residents gathered at the Museum car park in Uppermill to find out more about the new scheme.
The crackdown is largely centred on booming Uppermill but will be implemented in other villages across the area by the Saddleworth Neighbourhood Policing Team.
Police say cannabis and cocaine are being bought and sold up as revellers pour into Uppermill, largely at the weekend, and many from outside the area.
PC Lee Cullen, a Saddleworth South Neighbourhood Beat Officer, has met landlords and bar owners to deliver a stark message.
Speaking at a Home Watch meeting in Uppermill PC Cullen said he told licensees: “You have got to get your head out of the sand and realise we have got an issue with drugs.
“We have the cannabis that has always been up here but now we have got cocaine.
“It is easy for someone to step out onto the High Street on a weekend and just pick up a wrap. They have a quick snort and suddenly they are bouncing along.
“We all know the footfall of people visiting Uppermill has gone through the roof and I don’t see any slow down.
“I just see the thing getting bigger and bigger as the word spreads about the facilities and the bars.
“However, with that increase we have got the undesirable aspect of it all. We see subtle changes occurring and people travelling in from Wigan, Stockport, Tameside and Salford.
“Some of these people are on our radar in terms of their activities and now enough is enough.”
PC Cullen added: “If you are found with drugs in any licensed premises not only will you be dealt with by the police for criminal offences but you will be banned from every single licensed premises in the entire metropolitan borough area.
“We want the persons using the drugs to get a strong community wide message that their activity is absolutely unwanted.
“It is not what the community at Saddleworth is about and it is frankly alien and in direct contrast to the messages we want to put out to the community.”
In an email about the initiative, Sergeant Neil Barker wrote: “Over recent months there has been a significant increase in visitors to the licensed premises each weekend, particularly pubs and bars in Uppermill.
“This is fantastic news for the local economy – however it is apparent that a small minority of visitors are using controlled drugs while in the villages.
“The aim is to send out a clear message that engaging in anti-social behaviour and the use of controlled drugs is not acceptable and will not be tolerated.
“We want people to visit and enjoy the facilities in the villages, but it is important people do so safely whilst showing respect for the residents, other visitors and staff working in the area.”
The campaign is supported by visual aids such as ‘Zero Zone’ signs and window stickers at establishments while bar staff will wear wrist bands highlighting the initiative.