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'I cannot arrest my way out of County Lines' - Norfolk chief constable calls for more unity to tackle roots of drugs issue

PUBLISHED: 13:42 05 February 2019 | UPDATED: 13:42 05 February 2019

Chief Constable Simon Bailey. Picture: Archant.

Chief Constable Simon Bailey. Picture: Archant.

Archant

The chief constable of Norfolk has said organisations across the county need to work better together to help solve society's problems - because he "cannot arrest" his way out the County Lines problem.

Simon Bailey said there needs to be more “joined up thinking” to tackle the issues affecting the most vulnerable people in Norfolk.

The County Lines issue has seen drug dealers from bigger cities such as London targeting places such as Norwich.

Children are being used as ‘mules’ by those dealers to peddle the drugs, while vulnerable adults are being ‘cuckooed’, with their homes taken over for the purpose of drug dealing.

Norfolk police have been trying to deal with the issue through Operation Gravity, with arrests and convictions of those exploiting people.

But Mr Bailey spoke of the need for a wider solution as he addressed a meeting of the Police and Crime Panel, where an increase of more than 10pc in council tax bills to pay for policing was agreed.

Mr Bailey told the panel, made up of county, borough, district and city councillors and independent members: “We need to start thinking very differently and to start joining it up right across the spectrum.

“There should be a whole system approach to how we deal with the most vulnerable.

“There are vast swathes of the community in Norfolk who are more than capable of looking after themselves, but there are less fortunate individuals who need the whole of the public sector to deliver the services in a really joined up way.

“It’s very easy to hold the police to account, but really difficult questions should be being asked.

“Why does Norwich have the third highest rate of heroin deaths in the county?

“Is that a police problem? It’s my officers and staff who are dealing with that, but I cannot arrest my way out of County Lines.”

Mr Bailey said there was a need for better partnership working, including with councils, the NHS and within Westminster departments.

He stressed partnership working, including with Norfolk County Council’s children’s services, was better than it had been for years.

He said: “There is brilliant work being done, including in the early years hubs.

“Our partnerships are probably as good as they have been in a long time, but does that mean there is not so much more we could do?

“I think there is, if we are going to be able to deal with the most vulnerable people and stop exploitation.”

Norfolk county councillor Martin Storey, a member of the police and crime panel, said of Mr Bailey’s comments that it was “the most common sense I have heard in this meeting for many a time.”

He said: “it’s about people and organisations coming together to do their bit. That makes sense at the end of the day.”

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