Lincoln is to ban the use of “legal highs” within the city centre. A council report claims that Lincoln has developed a reputation as a city with “a ready and cheap supply” of legal highs, and it is hoped that the ban will help to stem the problem.
In particular, authorities in the historic cathedral city are concerned that such a reputation could lead to “legal high tourism” where people visit the area specifically to partake of legal substances that produce drug-like effects. It is hoped that banning the use of such substances in the city centre will discourage people from travelling in order to take advantage of this apparent supply.
The city’s problem with legal highs has escalated rapidly in recent years. In 2011, police only recorded seven incidents which involved the logging of the phrase “legal high.” By 2014, this had leapt to 820 incidents – more than 114 times the 2011 figure. According to research carried out by the Centre for Social Justice, the number of legal high-related incidents logged by Lincoln last year was greater than any other police force that supplied data.
The use of legal highs within the city has led to significant problems with anti-social behaviour, according to City of Lincoln Council. The ban on the public use of such substances is part of an attempt to curb these issues, and makes use of a new power recently introduced by government called a Public Space Protection Order (PSPO).
Under the new ban, people will be prohibited from using “intoxicating substances” publicly within Lincoln’s city centre, whether or not those substances are in themselves legal. Alcohol is also an intoxicating substance, and will be also therefore fall under the ban. However, the measure is only effective in public spaces. People will still be entitled to purchase alcohol or legal highs, then take them home in order to use them in private.
According to Lincoln’s manager for public protection and anti-social behaviour Sam Barstow: “The whole driver behind this for us has been about taking a proactive stance and trying to do something innovative to tackle an issue that’s really having an impact on people that live locally, people that work locally and people that might want to come and visit our city centre.”
The initiative also has the support of the city centre’s neighbourhood policing inspector Pat Coates. However, Inspector Coates feels that the measures being rolled out do not go far enough.
“We would like to see better legislation to enable us to deal with the actual sellers,” Inspector Coates said.