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Police pledged extra resources to tackle Class A drugs as number of arrests explode by 500pc

A bag of drugs seized in police raid at a property at Howard Terrace near Sussex Street where four people were arrested and around £1,000 worth of Class A drugs seized. Photo by Dominic Gilbert.

A bag of drugs seized in police raid at a property at Howard Terrace near Sussex Street where four people were arrested and around £1,000 worth of Class A drugs seized. Photo by Dominic Gilbert.

Dominic Gilbert.

Arrests made across the county relating to the supply of Class A drugs have exploded by nearly 500pc over the last five years as the local market becomes “saturated” with cocaine and heroin.

And with the prospect of violent gangs taking a foothold in Norfolk, the police and crime commissioner has today pledged to funnel extra resources into the war on drugs.

Figures released under the Freedom of Information Act show arrests for possession or intent to supply Class A drugs have risen from 125 in 2012, to almost 600 last year. Children as young as 13 have been arrested, often exploited as county line drug gangs prey on urban centres including Norwich, Great Yarmouth and Kings Lynn.

Det Insp Tom Smith, of Norfolk Police, said officers are targeting the gangs as a result of the worst violence he has seen in his career.

“The drug market is a very lucrative business and people higher up the food chain are running it as a business,” he said. “This business model is trying to saturate the drug supply market. Any town or city will have a drugs market but the levels of violence we have seen have been unprecedented. “What we are seeing is people stabbed for £20 of drug debts and that is a completely disproportionate level of violence. We know over recent months there has been an increase in drug related violence and stabbings, which is completely unacceptable.

“The war on drugs will continue and it always will. When we have particularly heavy or unacceptable conduct along with it we cannot accept that.

“Juveniles are particularly vulnerable people, particularly around mental health issues or education issues, and are being exploited by these ruthless people.”

Police and Crime Commissioner Lorne Green said he was committed to tackling the spread of Class A drugs and pledged more resources to fight the problem.

“We did not see the extended knife crime some years ago we are seeing now, but that tsunami is now washing over Norfolk,” he said. “It is important to stamp this out before it takes a firm hold in the county. We are going to increase resources dedicated to protecting this county using state of the art technology combined with intelligence. I have given an undertaking to make more resources available for that purpose.”

Police raid a property at Howard Terrace near Sussex Street where four people were arrested and escorted outside and around £1,000 worth of Class A drugs seized. Photo by Dominic Gilbert. Police raid a property at Howard Terrace near Sussex Street where four people were arrested and escorted outside and around £1,000 worth of Class A drugs seized. Photo by Dominic Gilbert.

Four arrested on suspicion of drug offences

Officers swooped on a flat in Norwich to arrest four on suspicion of drug offences - including two teenagers from out of county - and seized around £1,000 worth of suspected crack cocaine and heroin.

Police raid a property at Howard Terrace near Sussex Street where four people were arrested and around £1,000 worth of Class A drugs seized. Items on a table in the property. Photo by Dominic Gilbert. Police raid a property at Howard Terrace near Sussex Street where four people were arrested and around £1,000 worth of Class A drugs seized. Items on a table in the property. Photo by Dominic Gilbert.

Between 15 and 20 officers were deployed to Howard Terrace, near Sussex Street, on Thursday morning following reports of drug activity.

Two males, one aged 16 and from the Surrey area and one aged 17 and from the London area were arrested on suspicion of possession with intent to supply a Class A drug.

Two other males, aged 27 and 39 and from the Norwich area, were arrested in connection with drugs offences.

Wraps believed to contain cocaine and heroin had been dumped from a first floor window, thought to have been transported into the city hidden in a tube of Pringles.

Police raid a property at Howard Terrace near Sussex Street where four people were arrested and around £1,000 worth of Class A drugs seized. Pictured is a drug. Photo by Dominic Gilbert. Police raid a property at Howard Terrace near Sussex Street where four people were arrested and around £1,000 worth of Class A drugs seized. Pictured is a drug. Photo by Dominic Gilbert.

It comes as Norfolk Police continue their efforts to stamp out drugs through Operation Gravity after a number of serious stabbings related to the trade in Norwich and Great Yarmouth.

Det Insp Tom Smith, of Norfolk Police, said: “County lines drug dealing won’t be tolerated and today sent out another clear message that anyone who is dealing will feel the full force of the law. This is a clear statement of intent on our part that any drug activity in Norwich and Norfolk is acted upon.

“At this address we would see typical levels of drug dealing of around 30 to 40 deals per day, which brings misery to the local community and local neighbourhoods.

“We know there is a high level of violence associated to Operation Gravity, so entry was made today with Taser support and a large carving knife has been found inside the address. Clearly we do not know if that was intended for use on rival dealers or officers but the knife was readily available to them.

Police raid a property at Howard Terrace near Sussex Street where four people were arrested and around £1,000 worth of Class A drugs seized. Pictured are the police picking up evidence from the path. Photo by Dominic Gilbert. Police raid a property at Howard Terrace near Sussex Street where four people were arrested and around £1,000 worth of Class A drugs seized. Pictured are the police picking up evidence from the path. Photo by Dominic Gilbert.

“Investigations will continue to incorporate these persons into the wider drug traffic and conspiracy. There are also considerations towards safeguarding young people who are very unscrupulously being exploited by people higher up the food chain. It gives us an opportunity to engage with them and move them away from crime. We hope this gives people peace and quiet and a break from the crime and disorder.”

Residents’ relief

Local residents welcomed the police raid at Howard Terrace as drug activity had been making life in the area a misery.

After intelligence led them to the property, near Sussex Street, police will now seek a closure order to ensure it is not exploited in the future by county line drug gangs.

56-year-old Ian, who declined to give his last name, has been living in the area for just over 10 years and said dealing had been a constant problem.

“You always hear lots of shouting going on and my landlord said he has got the problem in other places too,” he said. “ We have had problems going back quite a few years now

“You get a lot of commotion and people out on the street all the time.”

Anyone with information about illegal drugs activity should contact Norfolk Constabulary on 101; however, if you have information but want to stay anonymous you can also contact independent charity Crimestoppers on 0800 555111.

More than 100 arrests under Operation Gravity

Police have arrested more than 100 people as they continue their campaign against drug dealing in Norfolk.

Operation Gravity launched in December 2016 as a response to an increase in the number of violent offences linked to illegal drugs activity in the county.

Approximately £10,000-worth of Class A drugs and £25,000 in cash has been seized since Operation Gravity began. Tenknives and two offensive weapons have also been seized.

T/ACC Mike Fawcett said: “We cannot be complacent and we will continue to take robust action against those involved in illegal drug activity. We do recognise that this will have an impact on those vulnerable members of the community who use drugs and may need support. This is why we are committed to continuing our work with partner agencies to signpost drug users to the rehabilitation they may need.”

■ Contact Norfolk Recovery Partnership on 0300 7900 227.

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