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Proactive policing operation to detect illegal drugs to take place in Bristol amid rise in football-related disorder

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A proactive policing operation to detect illegal drugs is due to take place in Bristol on Saturday when Bristol City play Birmingham City.

Officers will be visiting pubs in south Bristol as part of routine licensing checks where they will swab surfaces before and after the game to test for the presence of prohibited substances such as cocaine.

The operation comes amid a reported rise in instances of disorder at football matches nationally.

Superintendent Mark Runacres, area commander for Bristol and our drug strategy lead, said: “The deterioration in the behaviour of football fans nationally is well publicised and while thankfully we don’t often have to intervene during the matches we police, we want to do everything we can to ensure they are safe, family friendly occasions.

“It was only in January that we saw significant damage caused to the toilets in Ashton Gate’s Ateyo Stand during the game against Cardiff City, while two men have also recently been sentenced for violence following matches at Ashton Gate – one was fined for punching a police horse while the other was jailed for punching another a man to the floor.

“Those who take drugs such as cocaine are known to have a greater propensity for violence and the aim of the operation is identify how widespread such drug use is. The evidence we gather will then be used to inform policing operations at future football matches.

“While we won’t be proactively looking to test supporters themselves, if officers are concerned about the behaviour of any individuals then it will be something they’ll consider.”

In addition to publicising the drug operation, Supt Runacres is also keen to remind fans they will be committing a criminal offence if they are in possession of a pyrotechnic device at a football match.

Devices have been discharged at seven fixtures at Ashton Gate this season resulting in a number of supporters being ejected and two arrested.

Supt Runacres added: “Last month, ahead of the game against Middlesbrough, a 14-year-old boy tried to bring a smoke grenade in the stadium.

“I accept on some occasions people have not been aware they’re committing a criminal offence but ignorance is no excuse.

“These devices are dangerous – one man suffered second degree burns after a supporter set off a device in the row behind him late last year.

“Anyone who brings a pyrotechnic device to a football is likely to have it taken off them, refused entry or ejected, or even arrested and prosecuted.”