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6 July 2006

Help tackle drugs now warns MSP

from the Buchan Observer - 3rd July 2006
BUCHAN is facing a serious drugs problem unless money is invested to tackle the issue, according to MSP Stewart Stevenson.
The area now has more than 800 heroin users alone, sparking fears from the local member that the area is facing a serious and increasing drug problem.
He is disappointed that the area has yet to see any investment from the assets seized from organised crime and has warned that the Scottish Executive needs to be more pro-active in tackling the drug issue in the area.
He told the Buchan Observer: "We have a serious drug problem which would benefit from some investment. It isn't much worse than other areas but if we are seizing the assets of drug barons then that money should be thrust back into the area to try and tackle the drugs misuse problems.
"Most of the money seized so far has been invested in the central belt, which does have a very serious drug problem. However, Buchan will end up the same way if we are not pro-active in our approach to tackle the problem."
Almost £50 million worth of drugs have been recovered in Scotland in the past year - yet none of the money seized from organised crime will be reinvested in Buchan.
And it could be more than a year before Buchan see any return from the assets of organised crime retrieved in the area.
The Scottish Executive has selected 14 communities which will be regenerated with money from organised crime.
However, no money is being invested in Buchan, despite Fraserburgh and Peterhead's well-documented drug problems.
Grampian Police recorded over 500 incidents of drug dealing or intent to supply Class 'A' drugs in 2005-06.
But the Scottish Executive has decided to invest the money in communities around the central belt which they say have been hit hardest.
A report published this week by the Scottish Drug Enforcement Agency revealed that in the past 12 months it has recovered £22.3 million worth of Class 'A' drugs and £25.4 million worth of Class 'C' drugs.
The biggest seizure in the North-east of Scotland was £500,000 worth of cannabis which resulted in nine arrests last year.
Graeme Pearson, director of the Scottish Drugs Enforcement Agency, says that organised crime poses "the single biggest threat to the stability and prosperity of Scotland's communities".
He added: "There is no doubt that POCA (The Proceeds of Crime Act 2002) has greatly enhanced the Scottish Executive's ability to repatriate recovered criminal assets, thereby visibly strengthening and repairing those communities hardest hit by drug dealing and violent crime."
A Justice spokesperson for the Executive confirmed that no money would be spent in Buchan this year, but insisted that there may be money available in future years.
She justified the way the money is spent, adding: "Following careful consideration, Ministers decided to invest POCA funds for this year in the six areas hardest hit by serious, violent crime - often a reflection of drugs turf wars and the desperate social side-effects of the drugs trade.
"Those areas were identified by using the All Scotland Average per 10,000 population for serious violent crime over a three year period.
"In terms of the future, we have made clear that where there is a particularly large seizure, in excess of £500,000, arrangements will be put in place to enable reinvestment in specific communities where the individual has strong links - the main area of their criminality.
"Again the reinvestment will be in the area affected by the crime rather than the police force area where the individual is caught."
The 'Drug Dealers Don't Care' initiative run by the Scottish Executive last year is the only return Buchan has seen from the proceeds of organised crime.

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