New PSNI Area Commander welcomes drive for crisis centre

Chief Inspector Tony Callaghan, PSNI, Strand Road. INLS3714MC013
Chief Inspector Tony Callaghan, PSNI, Strand Road. INLS3714MC013

The new PSNI Area Commander, Chief Inspector Tony Callaghan has added his support to the drive for a drug crisis centre to help those with addiction problems.

The Chief Inspector said the PSNI would welcome anything that helped those with an addiction problem to get off drugs and lead a more normal life again, adding that anything that reduced dependency would be “of great assistance” to the PSNI.

He also vowed that, despite the PSNI having to make in-year budget cuts, front line policing would not be effected and would not involve job losses.

Asked what his personal opinion of the perceived drug problem in the city was, and his reaction to the recent District Policing and Community partnership meeting, at which drug misuse was the sole issue, Chief Inspector Callaghan said: “It’s a serious problem, it is a societal-wide problem and is not just a problem that is happening here in Derry. The recent themed meeting around drugs and legal highs showed the level of concern that there is in this city around this. I want to take that concern very seriously and I want to do all that we can to prevent the illegal distribution of drugs within this city and bring those responsible to justice.”

Referring specifically to what are know as legal highs, Chief Inspector Callaghan; “Legal highs are something which are very difficult for us to deal with. They are new psycho-active drugs that are out there which are being produced week-on-week and are being sold openly through the Internet and through other premises and we are working in partnership with Derry City Council to get those avenues closed down to people. That’s because legal highs are really, really dangerous substances. These are substances that are untested, they are substances with until misery attached to them and I am determined that we will do all we can to close the places down that are involved in selling those.”

He said he had a “huge amount of empathy” for any parent or relative who had to contemplate contacting the police for help with someone with a drug addiction problem, but urged anyone with information to contact their neighbourhood policing team for help or, alternatively, to use Crimestoppers if they wanted anonymity.

Asked what if any role he saw for himself of the PSNI locally in the setting up of a crisis centre in the city to help families struggling to cope with substance abuse or addiction issues, he said: “We could welcome any help that there is out there for those who find themselves in a difficult situation that involves drug addiction.”

“Anything that assists people to get off drugs and to begin to lead a more normal life again and reduce dependency would be of great assistance to us. Drug addiction can lead to other types of crime, inquisitive crime that we talk about can lead to other crime like burglary and thefts to gain money for their drugs habit.”

Asked how he planed to achieve his goals in respect of fighting crime arising from drug misuse and other crime given the strict budget constraints the PSNI faced, and with an eye to future budget cuts, CI Callaghan conceded the PSNI had to live within a budget.

“We have a managed budget which is meted out each year and this year has been made more difficult for the Chief Constable by the fact that he had been asked to make in-year cuts a number of times and we have further cuts to find. I am sure that we will manage to do that in a way that minimises the front line response.

“What I don’t want to see in this area, and you have my absolute assurance around it, that we will not see front line officers effected by those cuts.”