Thursday, 4 November 2010

Public/Private Enterprise on Speed in Swansea

It’s as neat a piece of public sector/private sector co-operation as you will ever see; PFI on speed – literally. Doing a little business in the city centre this afternoon I parked my car close to the recently opened, £2m Swansea Drugs Project building. It offers a range of essential services on top of the usual substance abuse therapies; a gym, kitchens, crèche, IT suite.

But I noted a service that I believe has not been so widely publicised. Parked neatly outside in an expensive people carrier was the local drug dealer and a couple of heavies, smoking joints and providing those bits and pieces that visitors to the centre might have forgotten, or thought they might do without but...

It is, as I say, as ingenious a piece of enterprise as you will see. Where would you go to sell drugs? Where would you find a lot of addicts in one place? Conversely, where would an addict go to score, or to earn a little extra for the rent this week? Before today, frankly, I wouldn’t have had a clue. I am sure our wise city fathers, when they were discussing how to attract business to the city, didn’t either. But with a record £52.6m being spent in Wales on dealing with substance abuse maybe they should get their fingers out and tax this burgeoning sector.

Either that or police properly this much needed and valuable service so those who take their addictions seriously and are determined to beat them get more than a fair chance to do that.

Drug abuse in England and Wales is the worse in Europe, according to a new survey. Drug-related deaths in Wales are up by 67% and the pain and misery caused by this pernicious trade is apparent on our streets every day. Swansea High Street is almost a no-go area with discarded syringes a common sight, drunken and abusive behaviour and foul language as commonplace. But this is a city-wide problem and a nightmare for descent people going about their daily lives.

I am in favour of whatever works but whatever is being done now clearly doesn’t. Isn’t it time we had a zero tolerance approach to drug abuse? Isn’t it time we stopped telling people they are victims as though drugs creep up on them, mug them and drag them into an alleyway to jack them up? We are the victims, the people whose streets are not safe to walk, whose property is not secure from drug-related crime, whose lives might be at risk and who don’t know any more who can be trusted and where might be safe.

Isn’t it time we set a few examples and dealt a blow to the wicked drug trade? Time we established a few ground rules based on absolutes and certainties. Time justice got meted out alongside these programmes that are in serious danger of becoming an end in themselves. Time we took back our streets, our districts, our city and made them safe again, for ourselves and for the millions of visitors, tourists and students alike, who visit us every year and must wonder sometimes, walking down from High Street station, what on earth they have walked into?

Let’s help by all means but let’s remember that kindness can kill and love must sometimes be tough.

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