Legal high users 'problem' for retailers

Published Friday, 24 January 2014
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Legal highs are being blamed for a wave of anti-social behaviour in Belfast city centre.

Legal high users 'problem' for retailers
Young people using legal highs are causing problems for city centre retailers. (© UTV)

Several agencies came together to discuss the problem at an emergency meeting at Belfast City Hall on Friday.

Representatives were discussing the prevalence of substance users in the Smithfield area of the city centre.

"There are big issues around an increase in anti-social behaviour were some of the traders are actually being threatened by people who are high on these substances," Sinn Féin Councillor Deirdre Hargey explained.

"There is also a big safety concern for young people who are in and around the area using these substances, (some) are actually passing out to the extent where some of them are choking on their own vomit and emergency services have to be called."

Despite being called legal highs - most are illegal to sell, supply or advertise for human consumption.

But there are still retailers in Belfast offering the substances and now local representatives, traders and voluntary and statutory bodies are working with the police to clamp down on these shopkeepers.

Groups working with vulnerable young people say the use of legal substances is a growing problem.

Marie Wright from Opportunity Youth said that around 60% of those abusing substances have been dabbling or have been affected by legal highs.

"Cannabis and alcohol would still be the most dominant substances among young people but when you through a legal high into the mix that cocktail of drugs can have quite serious effects," she explained.

A PSNI statement said its officers were involved in a significant operation last November in three affected areas - Writer's Square, Gresham Street and Castle Street.

During that time 13 arrests were, 56 searches carried out and 14 referrals given to the Youth Justice Agency.

A police spokesman said some court proceedings are ongoing.

Following the meeting, Cllr Hargey added: "We hope from today that there will be a co-ordinated plan of action around trying to deal with this issue on the one hand that there can be enforcement for those shops that choose to sell these substances, also that there can be potential legislative change.

"But the big one is raising the awareness of the dangers of what's going on in that particular area and to try and combat that."

© UTV News
Comments Comments
pip in belfast wrote (363 days ago):
maybe a cop or two round there wouldnt go a miss might stop the hoods running the show police have no intrest which was clear to me after being robbed round there and they made me wait 4 hours before doing nothing and making me go to them !!
Alcohol is a drug in Belfast wrote (365 days ago):
Every symtom points towards alchohol abuse!!!!!
norman.d in bangor wrote (366 days ago):
This country has a serious drug problem that is out of control and people do not listen to the warnings that drugs can kill and destroy lives as well as families
phil in belfast wrote (366 days ago):
i had my bike stole from there last may cops didnt give a stuff after making me wait four hours outside the shop they rung me back and told me to just go home and there is no cameras round there either apparently so these thugs will just continue to do what they want round there !
Steve in County Down wrote (366 days ago):
The shops that sell these legal highs also usually sell drug paraphernalia so the best thing to do is to close them down.
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