Sutton is on high alert after a warning that the so-called zombie drug, spice, is now “the most severe public-health problem we have faced in decades”.
The warning, issued by 20 of the country’s police and crime commissioners, comes at the end of a week in which Ashfield District Council stepped up its fight against spice which is blighting Sutton town centre.
A new police team is to be stationed in the town in a bid to clamp down on the use of the former legal high, and other similar drugs, such as black mamba, which are sometimes referred to as synthetic cannabis.
But at a higher level, the police are making efforts to persuade the government to reclassify the drugs in the same category as heroin and cocaine.
In an open letter to Home Office ministers, Marc Jones, the police and crime commissioner for Lincolnshire, called for action so that “the dealers who peddle this misery are treated with severity and concern”.
The letter, which has been signed by all of the country’s Conservative police and crime commissioners, says: “Users are increasingly seen slumped on the streets in a state of semi-consciousness, often passed out, sometimes aggressive and always highly unpredictable.
“This is not cannabis. It really is a very different animal, and we need to eradicate it from our streets.
“The wide-scale abuse of these debilitating drugs within towns, cities and even villages across the UK is one of the most severe public-health problems we have faced in decades and, presently, the response to tackle it is woefully inadequate.”
Spice and black mamba are designed to mimic the effects of cannabis but can have severe debilitating effects and can leave users in a zombie-like state.
Mr Jones feels the reclassification of such drugs from class B to class A would raise the issue in the minds of the public and mean harsher sentences for dealers. He also calls for more services to be put in places to help addicts.
Meanwhile, in Sutton, the new anti-spice police team will comprise a full-time officer, a police community support officer and a squad of council community protection officers.
Ashfield District Council leader, Coun Jason Zadrozny, said: “We are determined to sort this, and to reassure shoppers and traders that Sutton town centre is open for business.
“From this week, we will have a permanent, visible presence from the police and community protection officers. We will use every power available to us to disrupt this behaviour.
“Our CCTV cameras have all been fixed and are being monitored constantly to make sure we can pinpoint, and also help, users.”
The Home Office said it recognised how dangerous synthetic cannabis could be and was continuing to monitor the impact of such drugs.
A spokesperson said: “We have acted to control these substances as class B drugs under the Misuse Of Drugs Act and have given the police powers to take action, including making possession illegal and delivering longer sentences for dealers.”