Disrupting drug use and supply in Watford continues to be one of the town’s top policing priorities.

And Watford’s new chief inspector, fresh from six years of running drug enforcement operations in Hertfordshire, looks to be the perfect candidate to clamp down on the problem.

Ian Grout says he is well aware the problem Watford faces with drugs, and it links to violent crime, but says he is also focused on looking at the longer-term picture, trying to find ways to ensure people in the town are less dependant on taking drugs.

In an interview with the Observer, Chief Insp Grout indicated reducing the drug market in Watford could be crucial in reducing drug dealing in the town.

He said: “Drugs is a big policing priority for us and our partners as well.

“When you look at our landscape of drug dealing, you could split it into two parts.

“There’s what we call the cocaine market, aimed more at professionals, and then there is the street market dealing cannabis, crack cocaine and heroin.

“And we’ve got young people coming to deal drugs in Watford, and that’s both in the town and people travelling from other areas.”

While he understandably could not go into too many specifics about he and his team are trying to tackle the issue of drugs in Watford, Chief Insp Grout was able to reassure residents that it is a problem that is being prioritised.

He said: “There’s a number of tactics we use for drug dealing, both overt and covert. We’ve done a lot of disruption in Watford and just yesterday nine people were charged with drug offences following a series of warrants – some of which were executed in Watford – conducted by our Organised Crime Team. This is part of the ongoing work to dismantle organised crime groups in Hertfordshire.

“On an even more local level, St Mary’s Churchyard (in the town centre) was certainly a hotbed of drug dealing and drug users.

“We’ve done a lot of work there with our partners and disrupted – but I’m not naïve to know that it still goes on within Watford and tackling it is certainly at the forefront of what we do.

“The issues we have is if you take out five or six drug lines, within a short time they get filled again.

“However we are doing a lot of preventative work going on with children in schools across Watford because a lot of those involved are around that age.

“We need to capture them early and help divert those young people who may be vulnerable to being recruited into a gang or county lines.

“With the help of partners we have had two youth crime PCSOs working out in schools for nearly two years, delivering workshops and building a rapport with those children who need extra help and guidance.

“If you just keep arresting them time after time, it won’t fix the root of the problem. In this case, we need to focus on prevention rather than cure.”

Chief Insp Grout suggested the act of putting drug dealers behind bars alone won’t necessarily fix the problem – instead working with agency partners, like Watford Borough Council for example, may help bring longer term rewards.

He said: “For us, the longer term is to work with the council and partners and look at those who have become drug dependant, because they then commit crime to feed the drug habit as well.

“Without a market, people can’t sell drugs. It’s a major thing that’s ongoing but it’s not just Watford, It goes for every town in Hertfordshire unfortunately.”