FRIDAY night was something of an eye-opener for anyobody who was out in the town.
A team of police officers, accompanied by passive drugs detection dog, Duke, raided several town centre pubs and other premises after a week spent gathering intelligence on drug use in Ashbourne.
The operation, Ashton Gate, involved plain clothes officers, beat bobbies and a task force team, who visited five pubs and a late-night take away.
The News Telegraph were granted exclusive access to the operation on Friday night.
We followed the police team as they entered pubs, secured all exits and conducted PC Paul Brackpool with his seven-year-old labrador-pointer cross dog, through the revellers.
Duke has been trained using containers similar to pepper-pots.
A row of these pots are placed before him, but only one contains a controlled drug. When he finds the right one and tells his handler, Duke is rewarded with a ball.
His sense of smell, which is 1,000 times stronger than that of a person, can show his handler exactly who is carrying drugs and even in which pocket they have them.
The scent works a little like a smoke bomb. Duke can detect the edge of the scent cloud, working his way to the source where the odour will be strongest.
A veteran of all the major music festivals, where he once found cocaine hidden in the bottom of a tub of hair gel, Duke and PC Brackpool have travelled all over the country to assist in the detection of drugs.
In comparison to a lot of places, Ashbourne has a low profile for drugs.
But this does not mean we should be complacent.
The same team who visited pubs in Ashbourne also spent an hour in Wirksworth on Friday.
And just a week before, PC Brackpool and Duke had been deployed in Buxton, where one person who was stopped and searched was found in possession of Mcat.
Two Ashbourne men who were searched during the early part of last week were arrested on suspicion of being in possession of a Class B drug.
And in recent weeks, another Derbyshire town has seen the most awful consequences of drug abuse, with the conviction of a couple for manslaughter after their little boy, Riley Pettipierre, aged just two, died after drinking methadone.
By and large on Friday, the attitude of Friday night revellers was simply allow the police to do their job and then return to enjoying their night out.
There were those who were obviously annoyed, obstructive or simply bemused by the operation, while one or two even found it amusing.
But when there is evidence that drugs are potentially becoming an issue in our community, we all look to the police to act.
And, as the town’s newspaper, we welcomed the opportunity to view the police in action and bring the inside story to people in the town.
It is reassuring to know that our officers are taking action whenever it is required and using all reasonable resources to do so.
Even more reassuring is the attitude of the police officers who remained professional yet approachable whatever reception they received as they went from pub to pub, along with the attitude of the majority of Friday night drinkers who allowed the team to get on and do their job.