Extra measures put in place to prevent spiking in Cumbria – and keep nights out as safe as possible for all

Free anti-spiking kits are being given out in Carlisle city centre in the latest move to keep nights out as safe as possible in Cumbria.

Advice on the issue will also be offered by police and partners – with these measures soon to be rolled-out elsewhere in the county.

Staff at the multi-agency Safer Streets Welfare Hub that provides support and advice to people on a night out in Carlisle are stepping up the work to stop spiking.

Home Office funding has allowed Cumbria Police to buy extra anti-spiking drink protectors, which are being handed out to people on a night out from Saturday.

These will be given out by staff from police, Cumberland Council Safer Streets Officers and volunteers from the University of Cumbria at the Safer Streets Welfare Hub at Court Square, near to the city’s main nightlife areas.

On top of this, police are increasing the patrols already in place across the county that are staffed by officers trained to spot potential offenders targeting vulnerable people coming out of pubs and clubs and at taxi ranks and take-aways .

Detective Inspector Mike Taylor is the Cumbria Police dedicated operational detective inspector overseeing work on the issue of Violence Against Women and Girls.

He said: “Our Neighbourhood Policing Team in Carlisle, the Safer Streets Officers from Cumberland Council and the University of Cumbria are out all-year round in the welfare hub during our busiest times in the night-time economy.

“They do a fantastic job of helping anyone on a night out who feels vulnerable or unsafe or just has some concerns they want to speak to people about.

“We recently bid for, and received some extra funding from the Home Office, which has enabled us to increase our investment into supplies of anti-spiking products, and safety information merchandise to be handed out to people on a night out, around the county.

“This funding will also be used to roll-out this type of help through a similar Safer Streets Welfare Hub to be used in the Westmorland and Furness area.”

The kits consist of drink protectors – a cover to place over drinks and which a straw can fit through – and testing strips.

DI Taylor added: “Alongside this we will be increasing patrols as part of our ongoing Operation Vigilant.

“This is a uniformed street patrol campaign to assist vulnerable people and identify potential opportunistic offenders in the night-time economy.

“It focusses on having uniformed patrols within areas of the night-time economy identified as hot spots where violence against women and girls may take place.

“Cumbria is a safe place to live – and we have a much lower number of these types of spiking offences than many other places. But we do receive reports here.”

Spiking is giving someone alcohol or drugs without them knowing or agreeing. For example, in their drink.

It can happen to anyone anywhere – no matter their age, gender, sexuality or ethnicity. It can be carried out by strangers or by people you know.

DI Taylor added: “Most cases of spiking don’t lead to sexual assault or theft.

“But spiking can cause severe distress, emotional harm and anxiety. It can take a long time to recover from someone spiking you.

“Victims can be male as well as female – but women are predominantly more likely to be targeted.”

DI Taylor said the earlier people report offences such as this the better – because if the spiking was carried out with a drug, some drugs can leave the body within hours, so testing is better done sooner than later.

He added: “We would also like to know about any spiking incident, no matter how long ago it happened.

“Our main concern is to make sure the victim gets the support they need. Once the victim is well enough, we are here to support and investigate.

“One of the main points we would make to victims is: You are not to blame. This is never the fault of the victim.

“Sometimes people are afraid to speak to the police, perhaps thinking no one will believe them.

“You can tell us about spiking even if you don’t want to go through with forensic testing and an investigation.

“No matter who you are, how long ago the spiking happened or what took place, our prime concern is to give you the support you need.”

Iain Stainton, principal lecturer, Criminology, Policing, Law & Security, at University of Cumbria, said: “Several of our students have completed significant training to become Safer Streets volunteers, working at the night-time welfare hub in Carlisle.

“This voluntary role allows our students the opportunity to make a real contribution to the community in which they live and study, supporting an important collaboration that is providing a safer environment for women and girls.”

Spiking is giving someone else drugs or alcohol without their knowledge or permission. For example:

  • Drink spiking – adding drugs or alcohol to someone else’s drink.
  • Needle spiking – injecting drugs into someone else’s body with a needle or auto-injector pen.
  • Vape or cigarette spiking – giving someone drugs in a cigarette or e-cigarette.
  • Food spiking – adding drugs to someone’s food.

Giving someone more alcohol or drugs than they were expecting and had consented to is also spiking. For example, giving someone double shots instead of single ones.

It is sensible not to accept a drink from a stranger or leave your drink unattended. But sometimes people get spiked by people they know and trust too.

How to tell if someone has spiked you

It can be difficult to know if someone has spiked you.

The symptoms vary depending on what someone has spiked you with.

They can be similar to having excess alcohol.

If you start to feel strange or more drunk than you thought you should be, seek help straight away. If you feel seriously unwell, call 999 or ask someone to get you emergency medical assistance.

There is no right or wrong way to feel. Some victims need emergency medical assistance, others don’t. Whatever your situation, the police are here for you.

Reporting attempted spiking

You can report attempted spiking to police, where a spiking attempt was disrupted before anyone became a victim. For example:

  • If a drink has an unexpected smell, taste or colour.
  • If you notice a tablet or powder in a drink.
  • If you see someone trying to spike a drink.
  • If someone tried to inject you with drugs but failed.

If you notice someone behaving suspiciously around a group they clearly don’t know, you can tell security or a member of staff, or report to police.

You can get more advice on spiking here: Spiking | Cumbria Police

Do you want to contact police?

Anyone with information can report online at: Report a crime | Cumbria Police

You can also phone on 101.

You can also report spiking here: Report spiking | Cumbria Police

Alternatively, you can contact Crimestoppers, anonymously, on 0800 555 111.


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