NEWS COMMENT: The nuanced approach to drug crime is a welcome step

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In general, it’s safe to say that The News, like the overwhelming majority of our readers, is firmly in favour of police crackdowns on drug dealing.

It is no secret that hard drugs bring misery to many; to those who take them, to those who become a victim of the crime caused by those who are addicted to them, and to those who are forced to sell them on the street (as opposed to the gangmasters in charge of the supply).

So we are pleased that the police’s new drugs squad, which was set up at the beginning of the year, is being to see results.

It comes at a timely juncture. We have reported too many cases of street stabbings in the last six months. Many of these, while deeply unpleasant incidents, are not indicative of Portsmouth becoming a more dangerous area to the average resident. Instead they are a symptom of turf wars, or arguments to do with dealing. It’s self-contained violence, to be sure, but nonetheless unpleasant and unwanted.

However, while we hope this police squad continues to get results, we are also pleased by the attitude struck towards some people involved. The police are recognising that some caught with drugs are victims too.

They may be teenagers coerced into being runners, or vulnerable people who allow the dealers to take over their home and deal from there. This distressing practice, known as cuckooing, can lead to the tenant being evicted – but then put at even more risk of addiction if made homeless, going on to cause more problems.

It seems that the police, and the courts, are recognising that they have a role in rehabilitating those who have been taken advantage of – while hammering those in control of the supply lines, who deserve to be punished.

And this is to be welcomed as the drug-dealing situation here, just as elsewhere, isn’t black and white. It’s a lot of grey areas, and simply locking everyone is not the answer.

Hassling those at the top, however, and interrupting them so they no longer bring drugs into the city at all; well that is to be welcomed. Long may it continue.