AN ongoing campaign to tackle drug crime and associated offences in the Scottish Borders is entering a new phase.
Operation Goal was launched in July this year to remove individuals involved in street-level drug dealing from our communities.
Following months of intelligence gathering, officers carried out numerous raids at properties across the region over a six-week period.
A total of 54 people have been charged under the Misuse of Drugs Act following this enforcement activity, with seven individuals now serving custodial sentences, having been convicted and a series of trials scheduled to commence at the end of this month
As officers built up a picture of the extent of drug crime within the Borders, wider-ranging issues such as the cycle of addiction and the protection of vulnerable people, including children, were identified as essential areas to address along with bringing drug dealers to justice.
To aid with these efforts, NHS Borders and Scottish Borders Council became involved in Operation Goal.
After a successful two-month enforcement campaign, Lothian and Borders Police and their partner agencies are now switching their focus towards diversion and intervention to further tackle the impact of drugs within the Scottish Borders.
To ensure youths are fully aware of the dangers of drug and substance abuse, officers will visit all schools in the county over this academic year to discuss the consequences of becoming involved in drug crime.
Joint presentations by the agencies involved in Operation Goal will be given and children will be encouraged to ask any questions or voice any concerns they have relating to drugs.
A range of specialist support services to those currently dealing with an addiction and their families will also be made available and information on overcoming substance abuse can be provided to anyone seeking assistance.
Police will continue to build intelligence on those involved in drug crime and carry out various disruption activities against anyone identified as being responsible.
Detective Chief Inspector Amanda McGrath, who is leading the operation said: “Operation Goal is a long-term project to not only minimise, but eradicate the scourge of drugs within Scottish Borders communities.
“More than 50 people have been brought to justice so far and whenever we receive more information about others involved in drug crime, we will take swift and robust action against them.
“However, tackling the route problems associated with drugs goes much deeper than just removing the dealers from the community.
“It is essential that we educate and deter the public from substance abuse as early as possible and we will carry out various engagement activities with schools and other groups to achieve this.
“Our partners at NHS Borders and Scottish Borders Council play a pivotal role in this new phase of Operation Goal and the support and guidance they can provide to our communities will further assist the ongoing efforts to eliminate the devastating impact of drugs.”
Councillor David Parker, Leader of Scottish Borders Council commented: “The council remains committed to working closely with Lothian and Borders Police and NHS Borders as it enters a new phase. By engaging with local communities and providing the necessary assistance and information to them, we can prevent people from going down this dark path, while also supporting those already affected by drug and substance issues.
“Education is clearly a key part of tackling the problem and I’m especially pleased that police officers will be schools to interact directly with the children.”
Dr Eric Baijal, Director of Public Health for NHS Borders and Scottish Borders Council added: “The message is simple. If you or your family are involved in substance misuse, this is an opportunity to change your life.
“Help is available and there is a range of confidential support services available for adults and young people across the Borders who wish to seek help for a drug problem.”