CCTV and education to tackle legal highs

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Larne Borough Council is considering the installation of CCTV in Dunluce Street to tackle substance abuse and illegal taxis linked to Northern Lights.

Currently Larne possesses three town centre CCTV cameras trained on the High Street, Upper Main Street and Broadway, which a Council report says have been identified by police as crime hot spots.

The council has contributed £6,250 per year towards the CCTV’s operational running costs since 2008. However, while discussing the renewal of the town’s CCTV agreement at a meeting of the council’s Agenda Development Committee on Monday night, Councillor Drew Niblock proposed that another camera be erected on Dunluce Street, the site of a hydroponics store where hundreds of sachets of suspected legal highs have been seized in recent months.

His proposal was passed unanimously, and the council is now considering the cost of realising the suggestion. Cllr Niblock told The Times: “ I think an extra camera trained on Dunluce Street would be beneficial so that people are aware of underage children going into the hydroponics shop and illegal taxis.

“A major complaint is that between 8.45am and 9.30am the place is jam-packed with taxis from all over bringing people to get legal highs. A lot of the taxis don’t display the legal ID plate. Some are ferrying in underage children to use that shop, which is the only legal high shop left in Northern Ireland therefore trade has heightened.”

Plans for educational programmes in local schools are also being considered. Cllr Niblock revealed: “We have around £5,000 of PCSP funding which hasn’t yet been allocated and which we want to use to educate children in schools over the dangers of legal highs. I have just put forward the proposal. Every council member is frustrated that we are powerless to do anything other than continue to raid the shop. “Until there is a change in the legislation our hands are tied.”

PSNI Area Commander Stephen Macauley stated: “Local officers will be in the area of the shop as much as they can to address issues arising from the sale of so-called legal highs I attended a community meeting in Larne earlier this week where people expressed their concerns about the issue. I listened to those concerns. I also stressed that police have applied the existing criminal legislation to its maximum. However, we will continue to work with a range of partners such as Larne Council, local drugs charities and the Health Promotion Agency to play our part in keeping people safe.”