By Chief Inspector Neil Mitchell

AS WE approach the traditional school holidays and perhaps some nicer weather, I once again make a plea to all parents and carers of children and young people to make sure you know where they are, who they are with, and ensure they are not engaging in anti-social behaviour.

In recent weeks, with lockdown easing, we have seen large gatherings of youths, sometimes more than 100 at a time, at various locations around the county.

The vast majority of these are all well behaved but a small minority have been engaging in significant anti-social behaviour (ASB) and disorder.

North Berwick, Tranent and Longniddry have caused us some issues recently, with intoxicated youths verbally abusing passers-by, vandalising items, smashing bottles and leaving a mess behind. This is not acceptable.

East Lothian Countryside Rangers have reported a significant rise in rubbish, empty alcohol bottles, broken tents and various other items on our beaches and parks.

When you visit the coastal areas, you expect it to be clean, tidy and safe, and the Rangers do an exceptional job keeping up with the disgusting mess left behind.

However, what they are now regularly cleaning up is way beyond what should ever be expected.

During a clear up at Longniddry Bents last week, 533 canisters of nitrous oxide, or laughing gas, were found discarded, along with hundreds of empty alcohol bottles. This appears to be a trend amongst youngsters, to get a temporary high, and as a parent of two young girls I find this extremely concerning.

You may see these small finger-sized silver canisters in parks or discarded in the street.

I wanted to provide some information on this gas to help you understand the risks so you can explain these to your children.

Inhaling the gas slows down messages between the brain and body, causing temporary feelings of calmness and joy.

Negative effects can include dizziness, headaches or fainting. It can also cause confusion and cloud judgement. Sometimes the user can see or hear things that aren’t real. The risks include it preventing the ability to breathe and, in extreme cases, death.

It can cause the heart rate to beat irregularly, increasing the risk of heart failure, and heavy use has been linked to vitamin B12 deficiency which can cause nerve damage. The user can also become confused and panicky, which may lead to accidents.

This is not something we want our children and young people experimenting with. This is a gas that dentists and medical professionals use under controlled conditions to sedate patients for minor medical procedures.

I have arranged a multi-agency meeting to raise awareness of the risks and to prevent someone from becoming ill, injured or dying from this.

Please talk to your children and discuss the dangers of these canisters and the impact of ASB.

Even if they haven’t been part of the group, they may know who has. Please report any concerns to us on the 101 number, or 999 in an emergency.

If we all work together we can improve our communities and keep our children and young people safe.