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Tackling drug-dealing is a key priority for new Highlands and Islands police chief


By Val Sweeney

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Chief Superintendent Conrad Trickett, Police Scotland's divisional commander for the Highlands and Islands. Picture: James Mackenzie
Chief Superintendent Conrad Trickett, Police Scotland's divisional commander for the Highlands and Islands. Picture: James Mackenzie

DRUG-trafficking in the Highlands is one of the main targets of the region's new top cop.

Just weeks into his new role, Chief Superintendent Conrad Trickett highlighted so-called "county lines" where drugs are transported from one area to another, often by children or vulnerable people, as an issue.

The former Royal Marine 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.

While he stressed it was one of the safest places to live, he acknowledged there were problems with serious crimes.

"Drugs are being brought into the area from outside the region and from further south into England," he said. "We have drug-dealing problems and all the resulting issues.

"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 is of more concern when you are talking about Wick or Fort William where you have 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 similar – 2182 incidents compared to 2188 last year.

"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. It has 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.

"We have lots of strong partnership working going on across the whole area. It doesn't mean we stand still."

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.

The Highlands and Islands is one of the safest places to live but there are problems with serious crimes, according to the new divisional commander for Police Scotland.
The Highlands and Islands is one of the safest places to live but there are problems with serious crimes, according to the new divisional commander for Police Scotland.

Chief Supt Trickett has taken up the role at an unprecedented time, in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic.

He said online fraud has increased during the pandemic – up from 70 cases to 139 during the first quarter.

While the aim was to detect and arrest the criminals, he also believed work needed to be done to educate the public.

"That is an example of where we see terms of police as a national organisation changing and shifting," he said.

There have also been increases in the number of anti-social behaviour incidents reported – up to 5521 from April to June from 3150 for the same period last year, although the majority were linked to calls from the public over suspected breaches of Covid-19 regulations.

He notes some "slightly concerning" rises in drug-driving as well.

"From a road safety point of view, it is disappointing as there are fewer people on the roads," he said.

But he is also cautioned that interpreting the statistics would be challenging with some crimes showing an increase and others a decrease.

"Because of Covid-19, we have to be really careful with crime figures," he said.

It is a privilege to be given this position.

As he takes up the role of divisional commander for the Highlands and Islands, Chief Superintendent Conrad Trickett says it is the best job in Police Scotland.

He cites high detection rates along with good community policing and the high public confidence.

"Obviously it is the best job in Police Scotland," he said. "There is no doubt about that.

"It is a privilege to be given this position."

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 co-ordination for Police Scotland’s response to Covid-19.

"I have been in every rank in community policing," he said. "I have spent time in CID. I have spent time in emergency planning.

"I have been involved in a lot of big events. I have a fairly broad operational police background."

He describes his style of leadership as "open and personable" and hopes to encourage innovation to take policing forward.

He also 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.

Chief Supt Trickett has been struck by the positivity and enthusiasm of the team throughout the division 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."



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