Large quantities of illegal drugs have been seized in Caithness after police launched an operation to tackle local issues in the county.
Operation Ruling was launched on December 4 after local engagement identified the issues the community most wanted the police to focus on.
Number one was drug crime and drug abuse and since the beginning of the operation 16 people have been charged under the Misuse of Drugs Act following extensive enforcement activity led by local officers at addresses across Caithness.
More than 3lb of cannabis, 1lb of a white powder that is awaiting analysis, personal quantities of cocaine, LSD and heroin were seized, along with non-prescribed medication including gabapentin and oxycodone.
Operation Ruling also identified tackling violence as a community priority and there has been a targeted focus on bringing those who commit acts of violence, or carry weapons, to justice.
Over the weekend in early December, a man was arrested for threatening behaviour while in possession of a sword and a woman was arrested following a serious assault where a knife was involved.
Four other assaults were detected, with offenders reported to the procurator fiscal.
Road safety is of vital importance to Caithness residents, so officers devoted time and resource to monitoring the roads network in and out of the area.
As a result, nine people were reported for drink-driving and six for drug-driving.
A further 31 people were also reported for a mixture of other motoring offences including driving with no insurance and speeding.
Mobile police surgeries took place in Lybster, Wick and Thurso to tell the community what has been done to address their policing priorities and how to contact local police.
The efforts to tackle drug crime and violence and improve road safety will continue and the public are urged to keep up their engagement with police, either by calling 101, contacting the local policing team directly, or by emailing CaithnessCPT@scotland.pnn.police.uk
Inspector Alasdair Goskirk, community inspector for Caithness, said: “Since we launched Operation Ruling, I have been really pleased with how it has been received.
“Not only by the considerable efforts of our own local officers, who continue to work tirelessly to improve the quality of life for our communities, but also from our colleagues across Highlands and Islands division and other national departments.
“Partners at British Transport Police and Highland Council have provided vital assistance and I am sincerely grateful for all the hard work undertaken over the past few weeks.
“I want to make it clear that the welfare and wellbeing of our communities in Caithness matters to not only the division, but to all of Police Scotland.
“We are here for you at all times and if you have information relating to ongoing criminal activity, or if you want to make us aware of other areas requiring a police response, then please contact us through whichever channel works best for you.
“Alternatively, you can make an anonymous report to Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.”
Local councillor Nicola Sinclair said: “This has been one of the toughest years in memory for Caithness but one of the positive things to come from that is the way in which the community, council, NHS and all our emergency services have worked together to protect and support people.
“Police Scotland have kept councillors regularly updated on their operations and we have a strong working relationship.
“I’d particularly take my hat off to the local team, who have professionally and sensitively handled some really upsetting incidents.”
She said Operation Ruling had been important in underlining the police are here to help.
“The results from the operation have been disturbing – ranging from seizure of drugs and weapons, violent attacks and driving under the influence – but with more presence in the county and more partnership working between police, council, NHS and others, I’m hopeful we can make progress towards a safer community.”
Former police commander, councillor Matthew Reiss said: “Various partner agencies and different departments of Highland Council have combined very well to send a clear message to the minority who those who commit offences in our towns and villages, that crime does not pay.
“Whether you’re involved in violence, dealing drugs or carrying out antisocial behaviour, which blights ordinary folks’ lives we have collectively made it apparent that your actions won’t be tolerated.
“Drink driving and road safety are also of great concern to communities in Caithness and this operation has seen continuous work to deter driving offences.
“The reduction in drink driving over the years tells me we should never give up on this vital work and, now additionally, continue to warn our young people of the stark dangers of drugs.”