New powers to tackle the scourge of spice in Sheffield city centre are paying dividends, say police.
Dispersal orders have been in place from 8am-4pm each day from Tuesday till today, enabling officers to order those responsible for anti-social behaviour linked to the drug to leave the city centre and stay away for at least 48 hours.
Police have given nine people their marching orders over the three days, during which they have also caught a number of people with the drug, who have been cautioned or reported for summons to face prosecution.
The increasingly common sight of spice users in the trance-like state which has led to it being dubbed the 'zombie drug' has prompted police to join forces with local businesses, the council's drugs support team and homelessness charity the Cathedral Archer Project to draw up a plan of action.
Temporary Sergeant Scott Szymczak is leading efforts by Sheffield Central neighbourhood policing team to halt the growing use of spice by catching the dealers and ensuring addicts get the support they need.
He said the use of dispersal orders, approved each day by Inspector John Mallows, had resulted in an immediate reduction in spice abuse and associated anti-social behaviour like begging and littering in the city centre.
"We've hopefully sent out a message to those involved in spice use, supply or anti-social behaviour connected to the drug in this area that their actions will not be tolerated," he said.
"Businesses and people living in or visiting the city centre have been asking us to take action, and the businesses we've spoken to say they have seen an improvement this week.
"We want to continue to work with businesses and our other partners like the Archer Project, to try to get long-term help for people using this drug, while looking to build our intelligence to ultimately stop the supply."
There have been suggestions the use of dispersal orders is simply shifting the problem out of public sight, where addicts could be in greater danger because there would be no one to raise the alarm should they have an adverse reaction.
But Mr Szymczak said users were told where they could get support for their addiction and issued with advice on how to use the drug safely should they continue using spice.
"Most people have been buying the drug in the city centre and using it immediately," he said.
"If they can't get it here we realise they may end up using it elsewhere, possibly at home or somewhere else away from the public eye.
"We have a harm reduction message from our partners at the council's Drug and Alcohol Coordination Team with advice to those using spice to take safety measures like ensuring they do not do so alone or take too much.
"But ultimately it's a risk that individual takes in using the drug, and we can't control where everyone goes."