Cannabis, cocaine and ecstasy were among the items seized during a two-night operation by police in Kettering.
Officers visited 17 pubs and clubs in and around the town on Friday and Saturday night as part of Northamptonshire Police’s summer crackdown on violent crime, known as Operation Scorpion.
The weekend operation led to 12 seizures of controlled substances including cannabis, cocaine, ketamine, ecstasy and valium, with all but two of the seizures on licensed premises.
Officers also seized a knuckle duster and searched three vehicles.
The Northants Telegraph was invited to join officers on Friday as they went out with a sniffer dog to show that drugs will not be tolerated in Kettering.
Sector inspector for Kettering Adam Ward said: “It’s all about working together and to make the nightlife in Kettering a lot safer.”
Insp Ward and his team of officers in uniform as well as plain clothes set out at 8pm on Friday to visit seven pubs and clubs.
They were joined by Stuart Phillips from B.W.Y Canines Ltd, which is based in Pembrokeshire, and one of his specialist detection dogs, Eric.
Stuart is a private contractor who regularly works with Northants Police and has also worked with officers from the county’s Trading Standards department.
He said: “We are not allowed to use a dog to search people but you can use him to sniff people.”
Eric turned out to be the star of the show with many drinkers keen to meet him and find out about his role.
His appearance led to many customers asking officers why they were there, allowing them to explain that it was part of an operation tackling violence and drugs at the times when it has been identifed that crime or anti-social behaviour is more likely to occur.
The dog received a warm welcome from those who showed no sign of drugs on them as well as those he indicated may have had drugs on them or been in contact with them recently.
Stuart said: “He will indicate if someone has something on them or in some cases has previously had something on them or used it or sold it.
“He will sit down and stare at them, and get rather excited.
“We do a lot of these operations.”
If it is confirmed that drugs have been found on someone that Eric alerted officers to, his reward is a tennis ball to play with.
Stuart said Eric sees it as a game so he is eager to sniff out any drugs so he can have his reward.
As well as sniffing out drugs at some premises visited during the evening, Eric also indicated that a young man in the street near to the town centre had a small amount of drugs on him as well as illegal tobacco.
The operation seemed to be welcomed by members of the public as well as the licensees and landlords of premises visited, many of whom are Pubwatch members.
Sharon Bull has only been at The Cordwainer for seven weeks but she was more than happy to have a visit from the police.
The designated premises supervisor said: “It’s great because it shows that drugs won’t be tolerated here.”
She said she threw out a couple of guys a few weeks ago for drugs in the toilet so Friday’s visit reinforced her view that drugs are not welcome there.
Officers also visited The Yards in the town centre.
General manager Liam Schulen said the venue has a zero-tolerance policy to drugs and added: “It’s a great exercise for the police and good for the town because word will get out that there’s a police dog in the area.”
The other pubs and clubs visited during the evening included The Beeswing, The Woolcomber, The Market Inn, Abacus along with Cheers Bar and The Loft, and Bar Seven.
Friday’s operation, which took place between 8pm and 12.30am, saw officers in plain clothes going into each of the venues before the uniformed officers went in shortly afterwards with the dog.
Stuart then guided Eric round the pub so he could sniff out any drugs on a person or investigate anything which may have been discarded when the owner realised the police had arrived.
All officers involved are keeping an eye on those in the pub, especially if their behaviour appears to change when the police arrive in case they try to avoid being checked by Eric.
And once Eric had done his job, officers were happy to speak to customers and staff about why they were there and what they were hoping to achieve.
Each visit was relatively brief, but it is hoped that the high visibility operation will show that police are committed to tackling drugs.
Speaking at the end of Friday’s operation, Kettering SCT sector sergeant Nathan Murray said: “I think from carrying out the operation we have had very good interaction with members of the community, in the pubs and with the licensees and the landlords.
“It’s quite clear to see that people are encouraging it [the operation] and there’s only a small minority that thinks it’s acceptable to sell drugs in the community.”
By the end of Saturday’s operation, police said they had 13 suspects who are at various stages of investigation.