CONTROLLING the possession and sale of illegal drugs on our streets is crucial if we are to reduce violent crime and make our streets safer.

When I was elected, the public ranked drug dealing and drug use as their second highest priority, and I know from the many meetings and discussions I’ve had since with residents, that drug crime continues to cause significant harm to communities.

Providing information about those who are drug dealing and supplying drugs is critical to the success of police raids and apprehending the dealers. Residents are increasingly turning to Crimestoppers (0800 555 111) confident in the knowledge that they can share community intelligence 100 per cent anonymously.

This valuable information is leading to successful outcomes such as drug raids, arrests, and the closure and dismantling of illicit cannabis farms.

This collaborative effort between the public and the police is proving to be an effective tool in the ongoing battle against drug-related crime and helping to create a safer communities.

As the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners’ (APCC) Joint Lead for Addictions and Substance Misuse, I am privileged to have a seat around the national ministerial board, sitting at the heart of government, driving the delivery of drugs reform and legislative changes the people of County Durham and Darlington are calling for.

I have lobbied the government hard for a complete ban on nitrous oxide and have raised concerns about its links to the increasing number of deaths and injuries on the road as well as anti-social behaviour. It is now a criminal offence to be found in possession of the drug where its intended use is to be inhaled to get high. Those supplying the drug face up to 14 years in prison or an unlimited fine.

As is often the case as one threat reduces, another emerges. With the decline in the availability of heroin, there are growing concerns that more powerful synthetic opioids could flood the UK market with devastating consequences. These drugs can be hundreds of times stronger than heroin, which is leading to a rise in deaths and drug overdoses.

Preventing avoidable drug deaths is of utmost importance in any community. One effective strategy to address this is by supplying naloxone kits to staff in the public and voluntary sectors as well as to those addicted to drugs and their families.

Naloxone is a life-saving drug that can reverse the effects of opioid overdose and potentially save lives. Durham was the first force in the country to train its officers to use naloxone in its custody settings to reduce the risk of drug deaths and is now training other forces in its use.

While the war on drugs is a complex and ongoing battle, it is far from lost. The efforts of communities should not be underestimated. By actively sharing intelligence and working closely with the police, communities are making a significant contribution to the identification and apprehension of drug dealers, as well as the disruption of drug supply networks.

These actions not only disrupt drug-related serious and organised crime but also send a strong message that they are united in their determination to combat the drug dealing in their neighbourhoods so their communities are safer, stronger and more resilient to crime, drugs and anti-social behaviour.