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"We must have a united front" - call to action to tackle county lines drug gangs

PUBLISHED: 12:08 25 March 2019 | UPDATED: 13:01 25 March 2019

Crimestoppers bring their advan to Goodman way, to encourage the public to get in touch with any information regarding county lines drug dealing. From left to right: Crimestopper's Philip Breckon, PC Oliver Marson and Cllr Joanna Smith. Picture: Ella Wilkinson

Crimestoppers bring their advan to Goodman way, to encourage the public to get in touch with any information regarding county lines drug dealing. From left to right: Crimestopper's Philip Breckon, PC Oliver Marson and Cllr Joanna Smith. Picture: Ella Wilkinson

Archant

Communities are being urged to unite to rid their neighbourhoods of drugs as Crimestoppers launch a campaign in the county this week.

The charity, which takes anonymous information on crimes and passes it to police for investigation, is touring known drug hot-spots in Norwich, Great Yarmouth and King’s Lynn.

An ad van and representatives of the charity will educate residents on the signs of county lines and encourage them to report it.

County lines is the term used for urban gangs and organised criminal networks who transport drugs into suburban, market and coastal towns using dedicated mobile phone lines.

Their operation relies on targeting children and vulnerable drug users to move drugs and cash, as well as supply the drugs at a local level.

Phil Breckon, Crimestoppers regional manager, said they are “providing an alternate route for people to report county lines and learn what the hidden signs are behind it”.

“County lines is an issue some people may be too afraid to talk about, and we can provide an anonymous route to report it,” he said.

“We have launched a week of ad vans covering three key areas Norfolk Police have identified as areas where this activity is taking place. They know there is drug dealing in these areas and want people to report it.

“We are trying to empower people to speak up and stay safe by using the Crimestoppers service. We won’t take information about who you are, we just want to know what information you have.”

Norfolk Police launched Operation Gravity in December 2016 to tackle County Lines drug dealing and since then officers have made more than 1,000 arrests.

But chief constable Simon Bailey has said the supply of heroin into the county has remained stable or increased in some areas.

Assistant chief constable Nick Davison said: “Officers from Norfolk Police are tackling this issue on a day-to-day basis and we have made a significant amount of arrests in the past two years to help disrupt and dismantle these county lines.

“This kind of drug dealing is a continuous issue but at its core is the practice of exploiting vulnerable children and adults, using various different tactics such a debt bondage and taking over homes, to facilitate their operations.

“Norfolk Constabulary is working with our partner agencies – such as local councils, children’s services, public health and housing – under the County Community Safety Partnership to identify and support those vulnerable people and prevent further criminal exploitation of children.

“However we know the violence, anti-social behaviour and drug dealing associated with County Lines can have a devastating impact on local communities too - and it is these communities who can help police and our partner agencies to identify those at risk and gather evidence of illegal drug activity.

“This Crimestoppers campaign will not only help raise awareness in local communities about County Lines and how to spot the signs of it – but it will also provide residents with the confidence to report illegal drugs activity.

“Whilst we would encourage residents to contact police in the first instance, we do understand that some people may have concerns about providing personal details and by contacting Crimestoppers you can be reassured the information stays completely anonymous.

“If we are going to protect our local communities - and those vulnerable people living within them from these crimes - we must have a united front.”

Signs of County Lines drug dealing include:

·Changes in behaviour;

· Suddenly having access to more cash, clothing or phones;

·Talking about gang names or using nicknames;

·Going missing or truancy from school;

·Unexplained bus or train tickets;

·Many unfamiliar and regular visitors to a house or flat.

Anyone with information about illegal drugs activity should contact Norfolk Constabulary on 101; however, if you have information but want to stay anonymous you can also contact independent charity Crimestoppers on 0800 555111.

Anyone needing help and support can also contact Change Grow Live on 01603 514096. Change Grow Live provide confidential advice and treatment for adults with drug and alcohol problems.

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