Officers identified 27-year-old Timothy Wood as a person of interest in the supply of spice - a cheap-to-buy synthetic cannabinoid available for as little as £2.
The substance, which was re-classified as a Class B drug in 2017, takes effect within five to ten minutes and lasts for up to five hours, leaving users in a collapsed, zombie-like state as has been seen in the town centre.
Wood, of Evelyn Terrace, Barnsley, was arrested four times in an 18-day period but had to be bailed while the substances found in his possession were tested.
He was eventually handed a 21-month prison term at Sheffield Crown Court for a host of offences including possession of drugs, supply and possession with intent to supply and possession of a bladed article.
Sgt Matt Wood, whose team investigated the case, praised the result and said it was the culmination of stop and search tactics used positively to apprehend a ‘key player’ in Barnsley’s battle against spice.
“Officers based in the town centre know everyone involved and we received regular information about Timothy Wood, firstly due to his shoplifting,” he told the Chronicle.
“We had intelligence that he was involved in the supply of spice and targeted stop and search tactics were utilised while officers were carrying out their patrols.
“We have to have a reason to do this, but did so on grounds that he was suspected to be involved in the supply of drugs. When he was first searched we found 7g of spice and multiple tablets - he was a walking pharmacy.
“He also had £102 in cash on him, all five and ten pound notes, and more than 170 ‘dealer bags’. On another occasion, officers witnessed a drugs exchange taking place and each subsequent stop and search on Wood resulted in more substances being recovered.
“The investigation took time but the evidence was conclusive and our work paid off in the end so 21 months is a good result. Timothy Wood was one of the main guys on the town centre’s streets and he’s now out of the way.”
Stop and search checks have historically proved controversial because some elements of the community have faced the greatest likelihood of being challenged by police and national guidelines were issued advising forces to reduce reliance on those tactics.
However, that advice has been withdrawn, with Barnsley’s officers actively encouraged to conduct such work if they have reason to believe a person is carrying a weapon or concealing drugs.
Wood - identified as a lynchpin in the supply of spice - is one of several identified by the police and the Chronicle can reveal work to secure convictions against two more suspected spice dealers is underway.
South Yorkshire Police received 1,174 calls from members of the public in the town last year expressing concerns for people believed to have taken spice in the public realm and, in 80 per cent of those cases, an ambulance was required to attend.
“Spice is cheap, it’s easy to get hold of and whereas heroin and cocaine habits can cost hundreds of pounds a day, spice is obviously a lot less,” Sgt Wood added.
“The town centre’s public space protection order (PSPO) does help to move users on, something which we’ve seen recently, but it doesn’t assist us with suppliers.
“However, it’s one of our key priorities and we will continue to work towards stopping the distribution of spice. Proactive stop searches and targeting of drug dealers will continue with the aim of making Barnsley town centre safer for everyone.”