City centre ambassadors who patrol Brighton’s streets have raised concerns about spice in the homeless community.
Spice, a synthetic marijuana that was made illegal in 2016, is becoming increasingly popular in the street community, the ambassadors said.
The team, who are out on the street seven days a week, said the drug can cause people to become aggressive or ‘zombie-like’.
And in the last six weeks, they’ve saved the lives of three people due to spice overdoses.
City ambassadors Kat Bradshaw-Denton and Shane Kybett shared their experiences.
Kat said: “It is cheap and it is increasingly accessible. It gives them a similar hit to heroin. It has been going on for at least the last year and for the last three months it is rocketing.
“We had three incidents within the last six weeks. Two in North Street and one in Western Road.”
Shane said: “Ninety per cent of the time we are the first responders.”
He described the incident on North Street on Friday, June 29, which saw Shane save a man’s life after taking spice.
“We received a call on our radio saying a man collapsed and stopped breathing on North Street,” he said. “My colleague got a defibrillator from NatWest. Members of the public were trying to revive him.”
As the most experienced first aider on patrol, Shane then attempted to revive the man with the defibrillator as he waited for paramedics.
The man regained consciousness as paramedics arrived – he saved the man’s life.
“The next day he came and thanked me,” Shane said.
On their relationship with the homeless community, Kat said: “We see them regularly and we look out for them. We’ve built relationships with them.”
But she is concerned about the increasing number of drug-related call outs the ambassadors have seen recently.
“We’ve had our defibrillator for about three years and in the last four months it is the most we have used it, normally with the street community,” Kat said.
She said many of the incidents are down to spice.
“I think they are aware of the effects of it but they carry on doing it,” Kat said. “When it was legal and they were getting it from shops round here it was quite minimal. Since it got made illegal it’s got worse.”
Shane said: “It is the most noticeable it has been in my time doing the job. Medical call outs are about 45 per cent of what we do.”
Kat added: “Usually at the moment with spice and alcohol.”
The ambassadors share information with homeless agencies in the city at weekly meetings, and talk about ways that certain issues, like drug abuse, can be solved.
The team is paid for by the 517 businesses that make up the city centre’s business improvement district (BID), called Brilliant Brighton.
There are 10 city centre ambassadors, with four on patrol during the day, and two in the evening until midnight, seven days a week.
They are employed to offer security to businesses, by targeting shop lifters and anti-social behaviour, but they have found medical call outs is becoming a more regular part of their jobs.
They also report fly tipping, graffiti, or alert the council if street lights need repairing or bins need emptying.
Gavin Stewart, CEO of Brilliant Brighton, said: “Sadly, we are seeing more and more instances where members of the public and street community have taken spice with terrible consequences.
“Thankfully, our team has been able to save a number of lives recently, and although I’m very proud of them for their quick thinking in those instances, we still need a joined-up approach from all our local agencies to help prevent more deaths and better support the wider street community.
“There is some fantastic work being done across the board and Brilliant Brighton is committed to working with all of our partners to be part of the solution.”
A Brighton and Hove City Council spokesperson said: “We are aware that use of synthetic drugs such as spice is an issue among some of the street homeless community. “The Pavilions substance misuse outreach continues to work with people who use spice to warn them of the dangers of using this drug and to support them into treatment.
“Anyone who has concerns about spice or any drug can call the Pavilions drug and alcohol service on 01273 731900.”
Sussex Police was contacted for a comment, but said it was not a trend that had been noticed by police at this time.