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Gloucestershire Constabulary has become the first police force to introduce the use of drugs testing machines as part of a newly launched anti-drink spiking campaign.
The campaign, titled Operation Nightingale, launched last Friday (10 December) and will see officers visit a number of night time establishments over coming weeks.
The operation comes following a recent increase in reported incidents of drink spiking and spiking involving injection.
Since 17 July there have been 100 reported spiking incidents at a number of venues across the county. At this time work is ongoing with the NHS to establish if any of the victims have returned positive results for being spiked.
The campaign has a focus on offenders and work with licensed premises will see the use of drug screening tools to ensure anyone entering is not in possession of something which could harm others.
Events took place in Cirencester and Cheltenham last weekend which saw enhanced searches of club goers upon entry to establishments. This included the use of metal scanning machines and drugs screenings which pick up readings of class A, B and C drugs after hand swabs are taken.
At Reva in Cirencester on Friday, 150 tests were conducted over three hours with 15 people testing positive for traces of drugs and one person being found in possession of cocaine.
At Moo Moos in Cheltenham on Saturday, 102 randomly chosen tests were conducted over two hours and fifteen minutes which saw nine people test positive for drugs and one person being found in possession of cocaine. Officers also spoke to approximately 250 women as part of community engagement with an all-female crew of officers.
At Atik in Gloucester last Wednesday (8 December), 130 randomly chosen tests were conducted over two and a half hours with everyone testing negative.
Searches also took place at Moo Moos in Cheltenham this Wednesday (15 December) due to it being the final student night prior to the Christmas break and the new Covid passport entry scheme coming into effect.
165 random tests were conducted over two hours with everyone testing negative.
No evidence of drugs used for drink spiking was found at any of the establishments and no arrests were made however the positive searches for cocaine will be followed up in due course.
Temporary Chief Inspector Emma MacDonald said: “Operation Nightingale is all about safeguarding and protecting the communities of Gloucestershire who engage within the night time economy.
"We take reports of drink spiking very seriously and there is a dedicated investigation team which is currently assessing each reported incident and looking at all lines of enquiry to identify anyone involved.
"Our licensing colleagues are also working very closely with establishments to share guidance around the preventative measures they can consider such as increased door searches prior to entry and the use of drink spiking kits for evidential capture. Work is also ongoing with partner agencies such as Cheltenham Guardians and the Street Pastors.
"I would like to encourage anyone with concerns or information to speak to police, door staff or one of our partner agencies so that safeguarding and medical intervention can be put into place if needed."
Police and Crime Commissioner Chris Nelson said: “I’ve taken a close interest in reports of spiking in the County and have been very concerned about the number of allegations we’ve been hearing, including those that we’ve seen through our new Flare reporting app.
"We want residents and visitors to be able to enjoy our County’s night-time economy safely, so I’m very pleased and impressed to see that Gloucestershire Constabulary have been so proactive in deterring these criminals and providing reassurance to club goers in Gloucestershire."
Deputy PCC Nick Evans added: “The feedback we’ve received from the operation has been overwhelmingly positive, with revellers saying how grateful they were to see the Constabulary taking steps to keep them safe.
"With women making up 82% of those reporting that they’ve been spiked, this operation fits squarely into the new priority in our Police and Crime Prevention Plan to tackle violence and intimidation against women and girls in Gloucestershire."
More information on drink spiking, including how to spot it and what you should do if someone is suspected of having been spiked, can be found here: https://www.drinkaware.co.uk/advice/staying-safe-while-drinking/drink-spiking-and-date-rape-drugs/
A PC from the Cirencester Neighbourhood Policing Team with a metal detector
Officers from the Cheltenham Neighbourhood Policing Team
PCSOs from the Cheltenham Neighbourhood Policing Team
A Police Constable and Licensing officer
Officers and club goers