Norfolk police chief Simon Bailey: Communities need to step up and help police flush out drug dealers
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Norfolk chief constable Simon Bailey says Tuesday's EDP Open House event is a chance to get a clear message across in the fight against Norfolk's drug dealers
Last week BBC News Online ran a national news story with the following headline: "Illegal drugs 'almost as easy to get as pizza'". This was based on a review of drug supply and demand in the UK by Dame Carol Black.
As part of her work, Dame Carol also found that an "unprecedented" number of children and teenagers are being lured into the drug trade as a result of county lines.
Her report found that the UK illicit drugs trade costs society around £19bn a year. Here in Norfolk we know that at least 4,000 people habitually take drugs and the likely cost to our community runs into millions. It is to our county's shame that Norwich has one of the highest drug related death rates in the country.
The constabulary has a vital role to play in tackling this threat and every day I see the hard work of my colleagues in their efforts to suppress the supply. We are at the forefront of the national response to the county lines threat and I am proud of how my organisation has responded to me declaring this a critical incident just over three years ago.
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Since then we have made more than 1,600 arrests and dismantled numerous supply lines coming into the county.
However, suppressing the supply is never going to be good enough and if we are going to tackle the drug epidemic blighting our county, we need to be having open and honest conversations with our local community and our partner agencies.
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On Tuesday (March 3) detective superintendent Andy Coller and chief inspector Sonia Humphreys will be joining the EDP Open House event, which is focusing on the causes and effects of county lines drug dealing and knife crime in Norfolk. They will be going with a clear message from me.
These issues go way beyond policing and as I have said many times we cannot arrest our way out of them. The County Community Safety Partnership has made tackling county lines a priority and has developed a strategy and a plan, however the time has come for us all to step up to the plate and deliver on it. This will take time, money and a relentless commitment to make it happen, but if we don't do this we will fail a group of vulnerable people who need our support and our communities who want dealers out of their streets and off their estates
We therefore need the support of charities and other organisations operating in this sector and, most importantly, the public to support the constabulary and partners. We need to respond to drug dealing in our communities, to make our estates and streets so hostile that dealers don't feel safe. The only way we can do that is if communities tell us about what is going on and trust us to respond accordingly. I am committed to responding to our communities' needs, so if you tell us about a drug dealer or drug dealing local to you then we will deal with it. It may not happen instantly, it may not be obvious it is happening, but it will happen.
I hope the Open House event will act as a catalyst for change and that as a result statutory partners, charities and the public commit to upping their efforts to work with us to rid our county of the menace of illegal drugs. We cannot give up, that is not the Norfolk way, we have to meet the threat head on and say enough is enough.