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'Everything is so vicious now' - three youths banned from Chapelfield in police crackdown

PUBLISHED: 09:02 19 July 2019 | UPDATED: 14:25 19 July 2019

A 48-hour dispersal order is in place across Chapelfield. Picture: Dominic Gilbert

A 48-hour dispersal order is in place across Chapelfield. Picture: Dominic Gilbert

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Three people have been banned from Chapelfield for 48 hours as police crack down on a group of youths known to be involved in drugs and carrying knives.

Chapelfield Gardens. Picture: DENISE BRADLEYChapelfield Gardens. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Through the summer officers in plain clothes and uniforms will be focusing their attention on Chapelfield Gardens and Coburg Street.

It comes after multiple reports of anti-social behaviour and drug dealing by a group of up to 30 youths who congregate there each day.

Some are known to carry knives, and police launched the operation after a stabbing in the park last month.

On the first day of the operation police seized two knives, some cannabis and some Class A drugs.

An 83-year-old man who lives nearby said: "Everything is so vicious now. We are always vigilant."

The resident of The Crescent said groups of youths in the area "come and go".

Police launched an operation against a gang of 30 youths in Chapelfield Gardens in July. Picture: Norfolk PolicePolice launched an operation against a gang of 30 youths in Chapelfield Gardens in July. Picture: Norfolk Police

"When one lot grow up another lot comes in," he said.

"They come in [to our road] and hide in the woods. Around the back of our house is like a post office for drugs.

"There is some bushes back there and if you see someone with a torch at 11 o'clock at night you know they aren't interested in horticulture."

Another neighbour said they have seen knives in Chapelfield Gardens, and needles abandoned near their home.

"We are concerned about the general area," said David White, 78. "We don't like the idea of Norwich being a centre for drugs.

"A neighbour reported someone with a knife that was clearly dangerous being put behind the bushes at one stage."

Police are upping patrols around Coburg Street and Chapelfield Gardens. Picture: Dominic GilbertPolice are upping patrols around Coburg Street and Chapelfield Gardens. Picture: Dominic Gilbert

Mr White said he feels comfortable in Chapelfield during the day, and said it is "one of the facilities that really makes the city".

On Wednesday police in Norwich launched Operation Tissue - focusing on drugs, weapons and anti-social behaviour in Chapelfield Gardens and Coburg Street.

Sgt Mark Shepherd said: "This is happening almost every day.

"There are large groups being intimidating to members of the public, and they congregate up to 30 in number at times.

"They are blatant about it. They may look young but they are carrying weapons."

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Police made four arrests at the start of the operation on Wednesday.

They included a 16-year-old boy from London who was arrested on suspicion of being concerned in the supply of drugs.

Two 15-year-old boys were also arrested in connection with drug offences, and are currently in custody at Wymondham police station.

The group often gather by the old city wall on Coburg Street.

Helen Chase, 37, lives nearby and said she has "never felt threatened" by the group.

"Just walking past some of these group you get a quite acrid smell of cannabis," she said. "It is usually very noticeable.

Police are upping patrols around Coburg Street and Chapelfield Gardens. Picture: Dominic GilbertPolice are upping patrols around Coburg Street and Chapelfield Gardens. Picture: Dominic Gilbert

"It doesn't look nice, especially when we have got visitors. The smell is so offensive as you walk down Chapelfield. It makes it appear not a very nice area."

Another resident, 34-year-old Robert Nowlan, said people smoking cannabis was a "staple" of the area.

"They are never really threatening," he said.

"When I was their age we had a youth club and there was somewhere for us to hang about.

"They are very self contained and smoking weed is just way more apparent now.

"That is just the area where they hang out. I walk past them every day, and I have seldom seen a police officer breaking them up.

Sgt Mark Shepherd. Picture: Nick ButcherSgt Mark Shepherd. Picture: Nick Butcher

"They could do something about dispersing them but they will just go somewhere else."

Police are working with partners to identify those in the group who could be vulnerable to exploitation and attempt to safeguard them.

Norwich chief inspector Sonia Humphries said: "Crime can be driven by exploitation in a sense when the children of Norfolk become targeted by the likes of county lines drug dealing.

"Young men and women are being used to transport drugs and knives and that comes with a huge amount of risk."

A teenager is due to appear at Norwich Crown Court next month in connection with the operation.

Ricardo Fernandes, 19, of Mile Cross Road, appeared at Norwich Magistrates Court on Thursday.

He was charged with possession of an offensive weapon, possession of a bladed article, and one of possession of 22 wraps of crack cocaine with intent to supply.

He gave no indication of plea and will next appear at crown court on August 15.

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