THE DRUG’S busting Zero Zone initiative has got off to a flying start as Saddleworth Police made arrests and recovered banned substances during the first weekend of enforcement.
Operation Sandstorm was launched on November 25 as a crackdown on drugs and anti-social behaviour, largely centred on Uppermill but also taking in Saddleworth’s other villages.
Police, local licensees, councillors, community leaders and residents gathered at the Museum car park in Uppermill to welcome the scheme, which will run to the new year.
And PC Lee Cullen has revealed it has had an instant impact, with arrests being made and drugs seized during their first weekend of enforcement.
He said: “The Zero Zone launch was fantastic. We know we are up against it and it is going to be a slow burn but we’ve started off on a really strong footing.
“Under the Zero Zone initiative officers arrested two males in Lees on Saturday December 3 when a substantial drugs hall was recovered.
“On Saturday evening a sizable task force visited Saddleworth to support the Neighbourhood team utilising a specialist drugs dog.
“During a sweep of Uppermill High Street drugs were recovered outside the Hare and Hounds public house and a male was searched near to the Conservative Club.
“We will continue to sporadically deploy these tactics throughout the initiative and have a groundswell of support from licensees and the wider community.”
PC Cullen added that a sweep of 16 establishments was carried out and of those 14 showed traces of cocaine.
And he warned: “If you are caught, you will not just be banned from one establishment, you will be banned from all licensed establishments across the borough.”
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.
An evaluation will be carried out in January with the hope that success will lead to the scheme being rolled out across the entire Oldham area.
Meanwhile, Sergeant Neil Barker said the recent spate of burglaries and robberies across Saddleworth seems to have subsided after significant arrests were made.
The Saddleworth policing team has been working with West Yorkshire police as well as specialist teams, including dog handlers and firearms, to combat the recent rise.
Sergeant Barker explained: “In August we saw a rise in the number of burglaries across the three Saddleworth beats up to 15, then in September that rose to 30.
“In October we had 29 and November was heading the same way until we got two lads in Delph. The number of burgalires after that sat at 11.
“There were just two more in November to take it to 13 overall but that number is a lot lower than it was in recent months.
“The problem has not gone away completely and we still have some work to do. We can never completely eliminate burglaries but it is a lot better than it was.
“We’ve arrested members of three significant teams from Yorkshire, Tameside and Rochdale and that has made a difference.”
He added: “The community has been a massive help by reporting things to us. If you see suspicious people or vehicles or something that looks out of place, then tell us.”