Police crackdown on dealers as M-Cat becomes 'drug of choice'
POLICE have revealed their fears over the widespread use of a potentially fatal drug across the region.
Officers say they are concerned about the number of youngsters taking mephedrone – which is known as M-Cat and has been linked to a number of deaths – throughout Hull and the East Riding.
They fear it is becoming the “drug of choice” among young people and admit it is a bigger problem than they first thought.
A week-long campaign is now being launched by officers in the city to target dealers.
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Chief Inspector Dave Houchin, head of neighbourhood policing in Hull, said: “People think it is a safe drug and the police are too busy to deal with it, that it’s not a priority for us.
“That couldn’t be further from the truth, although it is far more widespread than we realised.
“We are putting more resources into tackling the problem. We want to target the people who are dealing M-Cat and ask anyone with information or intelligence about who is doing it to please let us know.”
Chief Insp Houchin said, although figures on the drug are not collected, officers and drug support workers have noted an increase in people using M-Cat.
He said: “It is becoming the drug of choice for people. Our biggest concern is for the safety of those using it, as the long-term effects are not known.
“We have also found people who have taken M-Cat are committing public order offences and violent crime. Because they are in a heightened state and quite agitated, the offences are aggravated.”
M-Cat dealer Phineas Float, 19, will be sentenced at Hull Crown Court today after he was caught with 33 bags of the drug going into the Sugar Mill nightclub.
Float has admitted possessing the class B drug with intent to supply. He was arrested at the club in Princes Dock Street, city centre, on September 15.
Wayne Mason, manager at the Sugar Mill, said: “We have a zero- tolerance policy on drugs and we do random searches on people coming into the club.
“Two of our door staff found some drugs on Float and, when they searched him, they found more than 20 bags in his shoes.
“We called the police, who came and arrested him. From talking to other operators, it does seem M-Cat is the big problem across the city.”
Police say it is available on the streets for as little as £10, compared to £40 for a similar amount of cocaine.
PC Andy White, of the Willerby, Kirk Ella and Anlaby neighbourhood policing team, said: “It seems to be the drug of choice for a certain age group, because it is quite accessible and it is also relatively cheap, so it fits the pocket of younger people more.
“It seems to be quite in vogue and I get the impression a lot of people view it as pretty cool to take this drug at the moment.
“It is something we are still coming up against. As a police officer and a parent, my worry is because it is a white powder that is snorted, it is hard for people to know what they are putting in their bodies.
“Further down the road, it could lead to them committing more crime as they become addicted. We know drugs go hand-in-hand with criminal behaviour.”
Laura Starky, service manager at Refresh, which helps under-18s with alcohol and drug problems, said they have seen a rise in young people using M-Cat.
“Never before have we seen a recreational drug that has brought people into treatment so quickly. There is quite a noticeable deterioration in their mental and physical health.”
Chief Insp Houchin said officers are being trained how to spot the signs someone has been taking M-Cat.
A working group has been set up involving police and drug treatment agencies to focus on tackling the issue.
He said: “We are working with other agencies to raise awareness and educate people, particularly around the misconceptions surrounding the drug.”