A LEADING think tank has called on police to take a “smarter” approach to tackling drugs to reduce levels of violent crime.

The UK Drug Policy Commission’s report says the government's strategy focuses too much on seizures and arrests and not enough on reducing harm.

It says new dealers often take the place of those arrested and can bring new problems such as violent turf wars. But Bolton’s most senior detective said police would continue to take a zero tolerance approach to drug dealing and that reducing harm was always at the forefront of what they did.

The commission cites the example of the US city of Boston, where murder rates fell when police offered not to prosecute gangsters for dealing drugs if they stopped killing each other.

The think tank said the dealer who is arrested may be replaced by someone who is more violent which may lead to further violence on the streets.

Detective Chief Inspector Paul Hitchen said: “Policing drugs is a highly complex issue and we will always do our utmost to reduce harm in the community. We will continue to take a zero tolerance approach to drug dealing on the streets of Bolton and I would appeal to anybody who has information about drug dealing in their area to contact the police.”

Chief Superintendent Steve Hartley pledged to focus his efforts on tackling the trade in illegal drugs when he took over the Bolton division in January.

The Home Office said “tough enforcement” was a fundamental part of its strategy.