Over 3,000 drug users texted by police after criminal gang bust

Officers offered addiction support to those who had been buyng cocaine, ketamine and MDMA from the suppliers.

Over 3,000 drug users texted by police to offer addiction support after busting criminal gang bust Getty Images

Police have messaged more than 3,000 customers of drug dealers in Glasgow after busting a criminal gang using WhatsApp.

About 3,700 people who had been buying cocaine, ketamine and MDMA from suppliers running a courier service were contacted by cops to offer them addiction support.

It was part of an investigation into serious and organised crime called Operation Arachnoid that saw suspects involved in dealing arrested but went further to also help people suffering from addiction.

Police discovered more than 400,000 messages were exchanged between suppliers and buyers between February 2021 to April 2022.

Police Inspector Lynn Edwards said: “Operation Arachnoid targeted individuals involved in the multi-kilo supply of cocaine, ketamine and MDMA within Glasgow using WhatsApp messenger and a courier service.”

The Greater Glasgow Division public health co-ordinator said police found thousands of numbers ordering the drugs, which “was promoted as a high end service and attracted well paid professionals”.

Inspector Edwards explained how some people using the service were spoken to and they were identified as “having a drug addiction and they were struggling to pay their bills.”

Speaking at Thursday’s Safe Glasgow Partnership meeting, she said the suspects involved in the supply chain were arrested but the work went further than that to help drug users.

She added: “However beyond that – the team didn’t stop there. They decided to take a public health approach to this type of operation. They did something quite unique and sent out a mass broadcast text message to all the phone numbers using the service offering support and signposted them to the Scottish Drugs Forum website.”

After the message was sent out there was a “massive” increase in activity on the Scottish Drugs Forum website according to Inspector Edwards.

A police report on the operation said: “It later emerged customers of the service included those in well paid, professional employment as opposed to those with typically recognised addiction issues known to services. This in turn created financial difficulties, relationship breakdowns and even resulted in mental health issues developing.”

The report presented to the partnership earlier added: “We recognise that customers of this service, whilst engaged in consuming controlled drugs, are in turn vulnerable members of our society masking their addiction, often stemming from the trauma experienced in their lives. As part of our public health approach, we are seeking to support those we identify as vulnerable and ensure our enforcement activity aligns with our harm reduction strategies.”

The work was outlined as part of a public health approach to policing being rolled out among officers.

Inspector Edwards shared a number of examples of the approach in action, which included Operation Arachnoid.

Another example has seen officers being able to refer people they come across in the line of duty to the Compassionate Distress Response Service (CDRS) Out of Hours Service.

The pilot which has started in Glasgow south and north west sub divisions has been running since January and helps people in emotional distress get the right support.

People in poverty who police officers encounter are also being referred to Glasgow Helps, which supports people struggling financially.

Glasgow police officers have also been administering drug overdose medicine Naloxone among a range of other public health approaches to policing.

STV News is now on WhatsApp

Get all the latest news from around the country

Follow STV News
Follow STV News on WhatsApp

Scan the QR code on your mobile device for all the latest news from around the country

WhatsApp channel QR Code