County charity voices concerns after drugs were found on 1,647 people in Northampton over three years
A charity has voiced its fears after more than 1,600 people were stopped by police in Northampton town centre and found with drugs.
In total, officers have discovered narcotics on 1,647 people in the borough of Northampton since 2015.
On 582 of those occasions, the suspects were carrying cannabis or khat - a leafy green plant containing stimulants. However, on 1,052 occasions police could not classify the type of drug, listing it as 'other'.
Despite the large number of people stopped - only 382 arrests were made during that time and 182 cautions handed out. But the figures, obtained by a Freedom of Information (FOI) request by this newspaper, found that dangerous weapons, including a crossbow, were also found on those carrying drugs.
Catherine Maryon, chair of Solve It VSA, provides education about the dangers of abusing solvents such as aerosols, gases and glue and new psychoactive substances, often mistakenly referred to as ‘legal highs’.
She said the sheer number of people found with drugs during stop and searches was alarming.
"I do think it is worrying," she said. "It reminds us that drug use is going on around us without us knowing.
"Friends and family often do not realise their loved ones are using dangerous substances and may find out only after they suffer harm or even death."
She has also voiced her concerns about the rise in the use of the class-C drug khat, which accounts for a large proportion of the stop and search figures.
She said: "It affects how you feel as well as causing physical reactions in the body.
"It can make you feel anxious and that can lead to aggression or feeling under threat, which makes for a very unpleasant and unpredictable home environment for the user and their family.
"Further, it is a Class C drug, meaning even possession of it is a criminal offence - and that can bring the user into the criminal world with associated consequences."
This newapaper's FOI request also revealed that the youngest person stopped with drugs on them in the borough was just 12.
Catherine said her Kettering-based charity focuses on encouraging young people to make informed decisions about drugs.
"We provide information about the effects of solvents and psychoactive substances in a neutral, fact-based interactive environment," she said.
"We encourage young people to do their own research and not rely only on the word of a few people.
"In this context we explore how to make sure your information is sound, how to be confident you are making a decision you are comfortable with, and how to delay making that decision if you're unsure.
"These skills will be with young people throughout their lives as they encounter these and other risky situations."