South Yorkshire Police’s efforts to tackle the scourge of Spice in Sheffield city centre narrowly missed out on a national prize.
Earlier this year the force was announced as the winner in the Police Now category of the Tilley Awards, which recognise ‘problem-solving initiatives’.
Spice, a type of synthetic cannabis, has a debilitating effect and can leave users in a zombie-like state, slumped over in the street.
PC Libby Bettney, who joined South Yorkshire Police in 2017 through Police Now, a two-year graduate scheme, spoke at the Tilley ceremony about the strategies she and her colleagues have come up with to deal with the issue.
The Durham Police Crime and Victims’ Commissioner, Ron Hogg, was the overall winner of the 2018/19 Tilley Award for his peer mentoring project. Five category winners had previously been selected out of 72 entries.
South Yorkshire’s assistant chief constable Lauren Poultney said: “All of the category winners were excellent examples of the different problem solving initiatives taking place across the country and it was a very close call for judging.
“I am extremely pleased we have been able to celebrate their success. We were overwhelmed with the number of entries submitted, all of which demonstrate the commitment, dedication and successes achieved by police forces and our partners to improve and tackle issues through problem-oriented methods of working.”
The force leads the National Problem Solving Team. Last year the first UK conference on the challenges posed by Spice was held in Sheffield. Once a ‘legal high’, the substance is now categorised as Class B drug.
In Sheffield, police have been targeting street dealing and supply, reducing the number of ‘zombie people’ encountered by visitors to the city centre.
Sheffield Council opened a specialist Spice clinic on Sidney Street last July. Use of the drug is particularly prevalent among the homeless and vulnerable.
South Yorkshire PC Paul Briggs said in December: “We can’t enforce our way out of this issue. We have found recently, particularly around begging, that we get people to court who have not got any money and they get massive fines because the legislation is so archaic.”