Twelve-year-old among the 1,600 people found with drugs on them in Northampton: Chron investigation reveals
More than 1,600 people have been stopped by police in Northampton town centre since 2015 because they had drugs on them.
In total, officers have found 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 dug, listing it as 'other'.
Despite the large number of people stopped - only 382 arrests were made and 182 cautions handed out.
But the figures, obtained by a Freedom of Information requests by this newspaper, found that dangerous weapons were also found on those carrying drugs.
One person was even found with a crossbow and at least three people were found with a blade.
And police have also revealed that the youngest person stopped with drugs on them in the borough was just 12.
Chief Inspector, Lara Alexander-Lloyd, tactical stop and search lead for Northamptonshire Police, said that, on most occasions, a suspect is only stopped and searched if there is 'reasonable belief' they are breaking the law.
She said: "Using stop and search powers is a more proportionate way of dealing with a situation and means you don’t have to arrest someone unnecessarily.
“Northampton town centre is our largest area of policing demand for the whole county and search figures are higher here due to focused patrols as part of Operation Viper, the force’s crackdown on organised crime.
"The town centre is home to a significant night-time economy, shops, a university, housing and more, all the places that we’re most likely to need to use our policing powers, including the use of stop and search."
The figures show that virtually all of the stop and searches took place in Northampton town centre, rather than the outlying areas.
However, 34 people were found with drugs on them in Great Billing and 11 in Kingsthorpe.
Reacting to the fact a 12-year-old child was found with drugs on them, chief Inspector Alexander-Lloyd added: “Children will also be subject to stop and search if appropriate, and if we have enough concerns to stop and search a child there will also be safeguarding measures ongoing in the background as well.
"Safeguarding children’s welfare when they may be involved in criminality is a priority.”
A force spokeswoman said officers were working with schools to prevent young people becoming involved in crime.
"Northamptonshire Police recognises that early intervention is critical in order to divert children from criminal activity," she said.
"Effective early intervention can only be achieved through partnership working and to this end a pilot ‘Early Intervention Partnership Hub’ (EI hub) was set up in 2017.
"This multi-agency team is based in Moulton and includes a large number of agencies who are currently working with 47 schools across the area (both primary and secondary).
"These include schools for pupils with special educational leads.
"The schools refer those at risk of exclusion to an early help coordinator.
"Once cases are accepted into the EI Hub, an EI Officer is assigned to conduct an assessment which incorporates Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) and captures a family’s strengths as well as its challenges.
"The voice of the child is central to the assessment process.
"An action plan is then generated and this covers not only the child but also their parents, siblings and other family members.
"The pilot scheme was launched in September 2017 and once an evaluation has been completed, the plan is to roll it out across the county."