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Highland police chief vows to tackle violence, drugs deaths and offences against women in 2022

By Alasdair Fraser

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Chief Supt Conrad Trickett. Picture: James Mackenzie
Chief Supt Conrad Trickett. Picture: James Mackenzie

Tackling a rising tide of suicides, drugs deaths and violence against women and girls will be a major focus for Highland police in 2022.

That is the promise of the north’s top officer, Chief Superintendent Conrad Trickett. The divisional commander is also vowing to get “back to basics” with concerted action against offenders causing carnage on our roads.

Chief Supt Trickett acknowledged that the great challenges and “hidden harms” of the pandemic had defined his first 18 months in the role. Praising the commitment of officers throughout 2021, he admitted extra resources were needed to achieve more in protecting the public. But he also stressed the issue was not as simple as “more bobbies on the beat”.

He emphasised the importance of greater investment in police support and specialist units to combat issues like domestic violence, cyber crime and drug trafficking.

“The Covid response has played a massive part in my time as divisional commander, not to the distraction of other things, but as an ever-present,” he said.

“Our role as first responders has been accelerated by Covid.

“Statistics show that only around 20 per cent of calls we get are about actual crime. A good chunk of the rest is related to people in mental distress of some sort or another. Our officers out there regularly and save people’s lives, often greatly hidden to the public. They truly are heroes.

"They don’t often get portrayed like that, but I see it every day.

“This past year we’ve got more suicides per head of population than a lot of the rest of Scotland.

“We’re right up there with drug deaths as well, an ever-increasing issue. Domestic violence increased in lockdown and continued out of lockdown, and I would expand that to the broader issue of violence against women and girls.

“There is some really good partnership activity evolving in these areas.

“The police have a role to play in gender equality and public confidence. The Sarah Everard murder really impacted policing across the whole of the UK. Even in the Highlands, as far removed as we may feel geographically, the reverberations played out.

“That is something that we absolutely need to focus on.”

The Chief Supt also praised the progress in partnership work on road crime, against a surge in drug-driving detections aided by new road-side technology.

“Road safety is massively important for the Highlands and Islands and we’re constantly working with other organisations,” he said.

“It is also about enforcement and getting back to the basics of tackling speeding offenders and drink and drug-driving. That’s an area where we will be having another big push.”

Asked about the need for extra funding and more officers on the beat, he stressed: “If you ask a lot of police officers, they will say that resources are one of the biggest challenges the force faces. If we had more, we could do more.

“I don’t fall outwith that because the more officers I’m given, the more I can do, but we do have to balance that as an organisation.

“It is not as simple as the numbers game. The public demands high-visibility policing. The reality is, we do need [specialist] officers who are armed, officers who carry out search activity and public order activity, specialist investigators for domestic violence, for rape, for cyber crime.

“None of that, including more locally my county lines team dealing with drug movement, is very visible to the public, but they are all delivering and making the Highlands and Islands safer.

“That community footprint of the uniformed officer will always be massively important to the way we police in this country.

“Equally important is all of those support mechanisms needed to deliver the service now expected of us across the range.”

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