Police squads swoop on Southside ‘druggie heaven’

PLAIN clothes officers led a 48-hour crime blitz on a pocket of the Capital dubbed a “druggie heaven” – carrying out 80 stop-and-searches in the process.

The crackdown saw Nicolson Street swamped with a mix of undercover and uniformed officers this week in what is thought to be a major new tactic in the fight against crime.

Officers have warned the no-nonsense approach – welcomed by locals – will be repeated.

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A police source said: “This was a wide-ranging show of force and one meant to show people who’s in charge. Plain clothes officers joined high visibility police patrols to carry out almost 80 stop-and-searches over 48 hours.”

The Southside operation saw people questioned in the street, pub drinkers challenged to ensure they were not carrying stolen goods and cyclists asked where their bikes were from.

While the total number of officers was not revealed, Operation Docket resulted in eight arrests. Two men, aged 25 and 31, and a woman, 40, were charged with drug offences after police recovered quantities of diazepam and cannabis worth £450.

Four men, aged 20, 22, 25 and 30 and a 37-year-old woman were arrested for a variety of alleged warrant offences, such as failing to appear in court.

Ihsan Safi, assistant manager for Jordan Valley Home foods, on Nicolson Street, welcomed the crackdown.

“There are a lot of drug users here, especially when you think it is so close to the city centre. It’s a massive problem,” he said.

“You see people sniffing glue and other solvents as they walk down the streets and people will just openly inject methadone during the daytime.

“The openness with how they’re doing it is shocking.”

He added: “There’s a lot of people drinking the big three-litre bottles of cider in the street, and we also have problems with shoplifters.”

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Poundstretcher manager Naseer Ahmed said there had been two shoplifting incidents in the past week in his store on Nicolson Street.

“We had one person trying to steal bedding and another that was after a heater. Obviously we have the staff to keep an eye on them but it is a problem around here,” Mr Ahmed said.

“I’m pleased there has been this police presence here as it should act as a deterrent. This is a tourist community so if there’s crime happening here, it’s a disadvantage to the whole city.”

Cameron Rose, councillor for Southside, said he had received many complaints from residents and businesses about issues with crime. “There is a big problem in that area with people who are addicted to alcohol and drugs and, understandably, there are a lot of concerns from residents about it.

“I think they will welcome the police presence and if there have been some arrests made then it should serve to make the place safer.”

Det Insp Stuart Harkness, of Lothian and Borders Police, said: “The presence and activity of police within the area sent a clear message to the community that we continue to listen to their concerns and address them accordingly.

“It should also serve as a reminder to criminals operating in the area that, whenever we receive intelligence relating to crime, we will respond swiftly and robustly to bring those responsible to justice.”