New police commander for the Highlands pledges to take on drug traffickers
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Drug trafficking in the Highlands is one of the main targets of the region’s new top policeman.
Chief Superintendent Conrad Trickett, a former Royal Marine, is just weeks into his new role but took time out to speak exclusively to the Inverness Courier about his plans.
He said cracking down on so-called "county lines", where drugs are transported from one area to another, often by children or vulnerable people, was one of his main priorities.
He has been getting to know his patch and the people in it since taking up the post of divisional commander for the Highlands and Islands five weeks ago.
And while he stressed it was one of the safest places to live, he acknowledged there were problems with some serious crimes, including drug trafficking.
"Drugs are being brought into the area from outside the region and from further south, from England," he said.
"We have drug dealing problems and all the resulting issues and there is a policing role to focus on that.
"We have to work with partners and deal with the public health implications and harm which it is causing more broadly in society.
"It is something we need to sort as best we can."
He also acknowledged some issues with violence and the use of knives.
"That is of concern to me, particularly with the geography we have here," he said.
"It is the challenge of having police resources readily available. Inverness is lucky in that sense, but it is of more concern when you are talking about Wick or Fort William if there is a violent incident."
So far, he has no intention of announcing any major plans or changes but rather wants to build on what the force has already achieved.
Detection rates for crimes for the quarter covering April to June, for example, increased to 69.5 per cent compared with 66 per cent for the same quarter last year, while the crime figures remained static – 2182 incidents compared to 2188 the year before.
"The most important thing for me in my new role is to understand both the communities and partners and structures which are currently in place," he said.
"The first stage is to go out and listen and actually get a good understanding of the problems we face in this part of the world.
"It is important to do that before I bring in some new plans – they have to be tailored for this area.
"This is a high performing and high functioning team, so no dramatic change in direction or approach needs to be taken. I have joined a team which has detection rates which are second to none.
"We have strong investigative teams and activity in relation to detecting crime and we have lots of strong partnership working going on across the whole area."
He also confirmed the creation of 20 new police jobs for Inverness under the Contact Assessment Model – a new approach introduced elsewhere to assess calls to the police.
Chief Supt Trickett has taken up the role at an unprecedented time, in the middle of a pandemic.
He said online fraud had increased since lockdown – up from 70 cases to 139 during the first quarter.
And while the aim is obviously to detect and arrest criminals, he also believes work is needed to educate the public.
There have also been increases in the number of anti-social behaviour incidents reported – up to 5521 from April to June compared to 3150 during the same period last year, although the majority were linked to calls from the public over suspected breaches of Covid-19 regulations.
In taking up his new appointment, Chief Supt Trickett described it as the best job in Police Scotland.
"It is a privilege to be given this position," he said.
The 48-year-old, who is married with two adult children, previously served in the Royal Marines and was involved in operations in Northern Ireland twice and in Kuwait as well as taking part in training exercises around the world from the Mediterranean to the USA.
"I have a strong background of leadership from my time with the Royal Marines." he said.
Since joining the police force 21 years ago, he has been involved in a broad range of roles including area commander for Dundee and leading on major events and operations including T in the Park and the Open Golf 2018, as well as emergency and resilience planning for the North Command area.
He has also led contingency planning for major nationwide events and most recently helped lead the national resilience coordination for Police Scotland’s response to Covid-19.
He describes his style of leadership as "open and personable" and hopes to encourage innovation to take policing forward.
He feels it is important to be visible to officers, the public and the force's partners.
"The Highlands and Islands are a very safe place to live and work and visit and obviously we want to be a part of continuing that," he said.
"It is really important tourism flourishes and economic development increases and the police have a part to play in that respect."
He said he has had a warm welcome from police officers, partners and the public since moving to the Highlands – an area he already knows through his love of the outdoors including climbing, walking and skiing.
He has been struck by the positivity and enthusiasm of the police team as he seeks to gain a broad understanding of the area.
"I am listening to people," he said.
"I am literally going out there and speaking to officers across the divisional areas.
"I am meeting elected members, MPs, MSPs so I understand the views of the community and the issues arising.
"Until I have that full and broad understanding, I would not come out with any dramatic plan.
"It is about continuous improvements. That is one of my hallmarks.
"I will not stand still."