Gang of 30 youths armed with knives and dealing drugs in Chapelfield Gardens
PUBLISHED: 07:07 18 July 2019 | UPDATED: 16:38 18 July 2019
A gang of up to 30 youths - including children as young as 13 - have been terrorising Chapelfield Gardens for months.
The group are known to carry knives and there have been reports of Class A drug dealing.
On Wednesday police responded as two dozen officers flooded the area, supported by a drone and dog units.
They arrested three teenagers and seized two knives and a "large quantity" of Class A drugs.
A 48-hour dispersal order is now in force across Chapelfield and much of the city centre.
The operation was launched this week after problems in the area became intolerable.
Last month saw another stabbing in Chapelfield Gardens, and officers recently recovered a knife and Scream mask hidden in the bushes.
Enquiries are ongoing into the stabbing on June 26, police said.
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.
"We have parents of small children going to nursery having to walk through drug dealing and youths saying they are going to stab each other."
Dispersal orders will be used through the summer to break the group up, and Sgt Shepherd said they will look to use community protection notices if problems persist.
Launching the operation on Wednesday, officers worked with Intu Chapelfield security guards to identify and arrest those involved.
Once dealing was spotted they detained around 10 youths in Coburg Street and Chapelfield Gardens. Three were taken into custody to be strip searched.
A 16 year old boy from London was arrested in connection 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.
A man aged 19 was arrested for possession of a bladed article and being concerned in the supply of Class A drugs.
Police seized a large hunting knife and a lock knife from the scene.
"These are 15-year-olds walking around with a guy with a knife like that," said Sgt Shepherd.
"People should be able to go to Chapelfield Gardens and enjoy the park and the gardens with their children."
Plain clothes and uniformed officers will be operating in the park throughout the summer.
Youngsters being groomed
Some of the teenagers will be treated as victims and police are trying to build an "intelligence picture" of the group so they can identify those who are vulnerable.
Norwich chief inspector Sonia Humphries said: "Crime and the associated activity can be driven by exploitation when the children of Norfolk become targeted by the likes of county lines drug dealing.
"It is very difficult because sometimes the exploiter has been exploited themselves.
"Young men and women are being used to transport drugs and knives and that comes with a huge amount of risk."
Sgt Shepherd said there was a "grooming aspect" for many of the younger members of the group.
He said girls are often made to carry drugs because they are less likely to be stopped and searched by male police officers.
"For those we know are schoolchildren we will go to the school and parents to discuss ongoing issues," he said.
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