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“Tackling the drugs supply is an endless battle” - neighbours’ lives made hell by dealers

PUBLISHED: 08:15 20 April 2018 | UPDATED: 15:45 20 April 2018

PC Wesley Dewing rams a door to gain entry at a property in Derby Street, Norwich, as part of Operation Cayman searching for class A drugs. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

PC Wesley Dewing rams a door to gain entry at a property in Derby Street, Norwich, as part of Operation Cayman searching for class A drugs. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Copyright: Archant 2018

“Tackling the drugs supply is an endless battle. The pool keeps replenishing itself.”

PC Wesley Dewing with a machete found during a search of a property in Derby Street, Norwich, as part of Operation Cayman looking for class A drugs. Picture: DENISE BRADLEYPC Wesley Dewing with a machete found during a search of a property in Derby Street, Norwich, as part of Operation Cayman looking for class A drugs. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

After 16 months of relentless focus on drug gangs infiltrating Norfolk, Assistant Chief Constable Paul Sanford knows it is not a winnable war.

He says success is measured by a reduction in violence and attempting to make life safer for residents.

But police keep returning to the same addresses, using all the tools they can, and the problem remains.

In February last year they applied to the courts for a three month closure order at a flat on Derby Street. But the occupant simply moved back in, and this week the door was knocked through, and a machete seized from inside.

Sgt Damien Minnis admitted: “Unfortunately the closure order at this address wasn’t successful for us, as they were able to come back and the activity continued.

PC Harriet Howard searches a property in Derby Street, Norwich, as part of Operation Cayman looking for class A drugs. Picture: DENISE BRADLEYPC Harriet Howard searches a property in Derby Street, Norwich, as part of Operation Cayman looking for class A drugs. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

“It is important for the community they know we won’t allow this type of premises to operate within Norwich and we will, where possible, conduct as much enforcement as we can to make sure the problem doesn’t come back.

“People’s quality of life is being affected by what is happening in their block of flats. People should be allowed to go about their daily business without living in fear. It is really important for us to reassure our community at every step of the way that their quality of life can be restored.

“People do not choose this way of life. It is something they find themselves in, and often find themselves stuck in a situation they can’t get out of.”

MORE: A city with a drug problem - Norwich becomes front line in drug war after 500 arrests

A 67 year old neighbour in the block of flats at Derby Street, who asked not to be named, said their “lives have been made hell” for at least a year because of drugs.

They said the noise at night had become intolerable and had given them countless sleepless nights.

“Was this an example of gangs coming up from London and finding the most weak and amenable junkie to prey on?” he wondered.

“That is what we suspected all along. There was a closure order put on the flat but he just went to sleep in a graveyard and came straight back.

“The noise at night was so bad night after night, week after week. We couldn’t get any sleep. I nearly lost my job through exhaustion.”

The couple said they had reported problems to the council “probably 30 or 40 times” and had rotten milk thrown at their door and car in retaliation.

“The first time police came they had a rope coming down the window and they would come shimmying down it and running away,” they said. “Police caught onto that and started putting people in the garden.

“He first moved here a couple of years ago and it is intolerable. He was quiet at first but there has been a lot of screaming. He still looks unhealthy like he is on the drugs. He needs help, not to be left up there on his own. 
“The door has been broken in up there at least a dozen times. It happens time and again and we have seen them carrying out a machete and an axe.”

MORE: Operation Cayman launched to keep a lid on drugs violence

Despite the constant disruption at the nearby flat, the 67-year-old added: “I personally do not agree with the drugs laws. The whole society needs to change its focus and see it as a medical and social problem. He needs somewhere he can go to sort himself out which isn’t prison, because that just makes it worse.

“He said the gang that were there previously were pretty much holding him prisoner there. If we could get a decent couple up there it might break the chain, if someone respectable moved in.”

Police keep returning to the property because of the potential for violence.

During a search of the flat, a machete with a blade of 16 or 17 inches is found concealed beneath a mattress in a front bedroom.

PC Wesley Dewing said weapons are increasingly being used by drug users and dealers to protect themselves from other users, who may routinely arm themselves.

“There is no real reason why you would have a machete in your home,” he said. “The risks for us are obviously we are coming in to the unknown. We do not know what is behind the doors, especially with the individuals we are dealing with.

“It is all associated with the culture. They feel threatened and this is to protect themselves from other drug users.

“Some feel they need this type of implement to protect themselves.

“It is very dangerous for anyone that could be on the receiving end of it. It is designed for hacking through jungles, not someone’s home.”

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