Isle of Man border force 'critical' in tackling drug crime, says chief constable

image captionA border force is expected to be in place by April next year

The establishment of a border force is "really important" in tackling drug crime on the Isle of Man, the chief constable has said.

Gary Roberts welcomed government plans to introduce a body to "to analyse travel data and share intelligence".

The latest crime figures showed drug offences rose by 6.8% last year.

In Tynwald last week, Home Affairs Minister Graham Cregeen described the island's border as "porous".

Mr Roberts said, although identification checks alone would be "too simple" to have a significant impact on cutting drug-related crime, the creation of the agency itself was "really welcome".

"Having an effective agency that provides a visible presence, but is able to analyse travel data and share intelligence across the island with law enforcement agencies, but even more importantly with law enforcement agencies in the UK, is critical," he said.

image copyrightPA
image captionOverall crime rose by 4.9% last year, including a 6.8% rise in drug offences

As well as the increase in drug offences, figures in his latest annual report showed that between April 2019 and March 2020 serious assaults rose by 49%. Many of the assaults were drug-related.

During a debate on the document, Daphne Caine MHK suggested the decriminalisation of drugs could help to combat that upward trend.

Mr Roberts said, while there was an argument for "legalising everything" to remove the violence surrounding the illegal drugs market, the substances themselves "damage people and they damage communities".

"The important thing is how we protect the Isle of Man from that," he added.

Expressing concerns over the mixed messages the decriminalisation debate sends out to young people, he said it "increasingly encourages young people into that market".

"We've seen evidence over the last few of months of kids of 13 and 14 dealing drugs. That is a really dangerous place to be in I think," he said.

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