A PIONEERING anti-drugs initiative is set to be rolled out across the borough after being hailed as a success by police following its launch in Saddleworth.
The ‘Zero Zone’ scheme, part of Operation Sandstorm by GMP, was launched on November 25 for six weeks by the Saddleworth neighbourhood policing team to tackle drug use.
With the strapline ‘No Drugs – No ASB – No Excuses’, the initiative saw PSCOs joined by Special Constables and a specialist drugs dog and team to take to the streets.
It was a response to the increase in drug related activity that has accompanied the success of the High Street in Uppermill, but was also rolled out across Saddleworth’s other villages.
And with numerous arrests made – including six names to put before the Pub Watch Scheme for a banning decision – the success of the initiative has delighted local police.
In a report on the scheme, PC Lee Cullen wrote: “This initiative was instigated not only to send out a clear message to the users and dealers but to also reassure a local community that has experienced a rapid increase of visitor footfall at the weekends.
“There was a huge groundswell of support from the local community. We found ourselves being stopped in the street and thanked for making their communities safe.
“You cannot put a value on that kind of reassurance which solidifies local communities and makes them feel their police service along with local partners care about local issues.”
The police worked with Oldham Council, Pub Watch, local councillors and licensees, as well as the Detached Youth Team from Oldham Council, during the initiative.
They used their own social media as well as local press to highlight the scheme, alongside eye-catching posters and wristbands across establishments.
PC Lee Cullen said: “The A frames and posters were a fantastic visual for people coming to the villages of what was happening.
“Talking about drugs has be quite a taboo subject but you hear a lot more about it now and that helps us tackle it openly.”
He added: “The results have exceeded our expectations. We want to thank everybody for their support and the District Partnership for their funding.
“We know we will never fully extinguish this blight from our local communities. However what we have shown is that with a partnership approach we can push activity off the high streets so law-abiding members of the public can enjoy the night time economy.
“We will hone and build on this good work as we move towards the summer period and our large local events in Saddleworth such as Whit Friday and Yanks Weekend.”
Sergeant Neil Barker added: “It has been a success but we also need to learn a few things from this.
“Lots of people loitering between pubs and bars with glasses and bottles and that does represent a risk so we need to see how we can get something in place to address that.”
Other policing areas across Oldham are now looking into setting up their own ‘Zero Zones’ following the success in Saddleworth.