INVERCLYDE remains 'generally a safe place' despite a series of murder bids and 32 drugs-related deaths in the space of nine months, according to the district's police commander.

Chief Inspector Debbie Reilly says that an officially recorded increase in crimes of violence had to be taken in 'context' and that the area's overall rate of 78.7 incidents per 10,000 people remains well below the national figure of 90.9.

Addressing a meeting of the Local Police and Fire Scrutiny Committee, Ch Insp Reilly acknowledged that the number of drugs-related deaths is 'depressing' but insisted that strong community-wide action is being taken to tackle the problem.

Ch Insp Reilly — highlighting that 47 drug supply and eight production crimes had been detected between April and December last year — said: "I'm not saying for a minute that we're going soft on drug dealing and drug supply but I think we all have to change the culture to address the problem that we have.

"We intend to embark on changing the stigma about how people who have addictions or problematic drug use are perceived, the language that we use and how the issue is approached."

There have been 16 confirmed drugs-related deaths in the district over the latest recording period and a further 16 suspected deaths from substance abuse, with these cases currently awaiting the results of toxicology tests.

Ch Insp Reilly said: "We are tackling drug dealing vigorously within the area.

"Of course, that is linked to drugs deaths, which is quite a depressing picture I have to say.

"We are looking at how to not only prevent drugs deaths but how to tackle drugs issues on a wider basis."

Inverclyde has seen nine attempted murders and one murder during the latest statistical period.

Ch Insp Reilly said: "There is one attempted murder that took place at River Clyde Homes, but in terms of the other attempted murders all of the individuals involved were known to each other.

"Not that I'm trying to play it down in any way, shape or form.

"I'm not, but what I'm trying to say is that there is context there.

"Inverclyde still is generally a safe place."

The district also saw a spate of serious assaults but Ch Insp Reilly says most of these involve individuals known to one another rather than random attacks. She added: "With the serious assaults, many of them are within dwelling houses which are difficult to prevent, but most of them are, again, between individuals who are known to each other.

"Two serious assaults were within licensed premises which, I think, for this area is actually a decent figure.

"We don't have many serious assaults relating to licensed premises."

Elsewhere, thefts from vehicles rocketed by 75 per cent but pro-active policing and the arrests and jailing of four individuals resulted in a 'massive decrease' in that category of crime.

Police officers in the district attended an overall total of 13,000 incidents during the period — the equivalent of 47 every day.