POLICE officers investigating rising reports of young females being spiked while out in Barnsley town centre’s bars believe ketamine could be being used to sedate victims, the Chronicle can reveal.

The drug - which is a powerful anaesthetic - induces a loss of consciousness when taken and is becoming prominent, according to South Yorkshire Police.

Investigators are probing a series of suspected spike attacks, which resulted in women reporting instances to police.

Chief Superintendent James Abdy said: “Ketamine is becoming more popular and may be linked to drink spiking.

“This is being looked at nationally but we need to understand what is happening in local areas, although this does take time.

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“Any reports of drink spiking are taken seriously, and forensic analysis will be undertaken as part of the investigation.”

Both nationally and in Barnsley, the issue of spiking has worsened and a suspected rise in the number of incidents has led club bosses to introduce more stringent measures.

Town centre bars, pubs and venues have clubbed together under the ‘Stay Safe In Barnsley’ banner - a part of which is the ‘Ask For Angela’ scheme, which sees members of staff take people who feel threatened to a safe place when they use that phrase.

There are talks of new measures throughout the town centre as a result.

CCTV and radios will mean venues can advise each other to refuse entry when someone has been kicked out of one place, with footage available to police, and ‘frequent, random’ searches on entry to stamp out drug use.

Spiking is punishable by up to ten years in prison and South Yorkshire Police moved to reassure victims that investigations into reported instances are already underway.

A spokesperson said: “Incidents of spiking are being reported across the whole country at the moment and we understand how worrying these reports may be.

“Everyone should be able to enjoy our night-time economy without the fear of being harmed.

“We are thoroughly investigating each and every incident reported to us.

“Please continue to report to us if you think you have been spiked or if you notice any suspicious behaviour while you are out - we are here 24/7 to listen to you and support you.

“With information we can build up a picture of what’s happening and where, to trace those responsible and bring them to justice.

“Your information, no matter how small or insignificant you may think it is, could prove crucial to our investigation.

“If you have been spiked, it is not your fault in any way and it is nothing you should feel ashamed of - the blame lies solely with those committing this type of crime.

“Patrols have been stepped up to provide reassurance to people enjoying a night out - if you see our officers, please do speak to them as they are there to help and support you.”

* If you wish to report to police, call 101, 999 in an emergency, or use the online reporting portal.