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Spike in violent crime and stabbings county-wide prompt drugs crackdown from Norfolk Police

PUBLISHED: 08:19 14 December 2016 | UPDATED: 16:04 14 December 2016

Temporary Assistant Chief Constable of Norfolk Police Mike Fawcett

Temporary Assistant Chief Constable of Norfolk Police Mike Fawcett

Archant

Gangs intruding into our county have been linked to multiple recent stabbings and police have responded by seeking to “stamp out” the drugs trade in Norfolk.

Six serious violent incidents involving knives, including four stabbings with multiple injuries, have been connected to county line drug networks in the last two weeks alone.

In response to the concerning spike in violence, Norfolk Police has launched Operation Gravity as a “force priority”. Houses have been forcibly closed, thousands of pounds worth of cash and drugs seized, and 22 arrests made in the last three weeks.

“It is luck rather than judgement that people have not died,” said T/ACC Mike Fawcett. “This is something we cannot and do not tolerate.

“We do not want this to embed itself in Norfolk. We want to make Norfolk a hostile environment for Class A drug dealing.

22 arrests have been made so far during Operation Gravity 22 arrests have been made so far during Operation Gravity

“If you come to Norfolk carrying a knife or dealing drugs we will come for you and use every element of the law. We will not accept it.”

Young people found carrying knives

Ridding county of drug “scourge”

Leaders in Norfolk Police and Norfolk County Council say they are determined to end the “scourge” of drug dealing in Norfolk.

Leader of Norfolk County Council Cliff Jordan said: “Norfolk County Council is committed to supporting and safeguarding the most vulnerable adults and children in our communities. We are working with the police and other partners to respond to the threats posed by drug dealing groups coming into our county. As well as enforcement activity undertaken by the police, we are ready to support and vulnerable persons who are being preyed on by these drug dealers.”

Chief Superintendent Dave Marshall, county policing commander, said: “We will not tolerate drug dealing anywhere in the county, especially when this involves making vulnerable people and teenagers do their work for them.

“Part of offender’s success in keeping the drugs in the county at the moment is to prey on people who are too frightened and afraid to speak up about how they are being abused.”

Police and Crime Commissioner Lorne Green said: “These are invasive, destructive and calculated crimes which ruin lives.

“Norfolk is working together to help rid our county of this scourge and also, importantly, to offer support for those who may be caught up somehow in criminality linked to drugs and are suffering the consequences.”

Three lock knives have also been seized in separate incidents in recent weeks.

“These are young people selling drugs in an area they don’t know, to people they don’t know, and it is protection for them,” added T/ACC Fawcett.

“We will come down hard on anyone found carrying a knife in public. It is not a reasonable excuse to carry a knife in self-defence - it is illegal.”

County line drug networks - supplying Class A drugs from urban hubs to county towns - are now prevalent in more than 70pc of police forces in the country, according to a National Crime Agency report in November. They often use young people as drug runners, and will coerce vulnerable local people into dealing for them.

“We do not have any Norfolk-based gangs, and we do not have gangs coming here indiscriminately attacking members of the public,” added T/ACC Fawcett.

“We are getting violence either as a result of drug debts or people not doing what the dealers want. We are seeing people standing up to them and perhaps not doing what they are told.”

The focus of activity has been around Norwich, Great Yarmouth and King’s Lynn, but a county-wide approach is being adopted.

Partnership working will tackle problem long-term

Over a 24 hour period yesterday, Operation Plexus has focused on the transportation of drugs on the roads around the county, involving specially trained officers from Norfolk, Suffolk, Essex, and the Metropolitan Police.

A multi-agency approach including partner agencies from children’s services, adult services and youth offending teams, as well as the NHS in Norfolk and Waveney, will tackle the problem long-term.

“If someone is a drug user and we take away the drug dealer, they are still an addict,” said T/ACC Fawcett. “Young people are often used as runners and children’s services may have to look at their welfare. This is not just a police matter.

“The problem has escalated over the last three weeks and we are dealing with this in a co-ordinated partnership using enforcement, safeguarding and education.

“We want to reassure people if they want to talk to us it can be done anonymously and in full confidence. If you see any unusual activity at addresses or locations where you live, seeing a lot of visitors to the address you might not have seen before, or see multiple people coming and going, we need to know about it.

“If you think people are being coerced into anything or see people taking drugs, let us know.”

Anyone with information about drug activity in their area should contact Norfolk Police on 101. Alternatively Crimestoppers can be contacted anonymously on 0800 555 111.

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