‘I wouldn’t come here in the dark’: Increased drug use in Norwich is giving Chapelfield Gardens a bad reputation

Chapelfield Gardens. Picture: ANTONY KELLY

Chapelfield Gardens. Picture: ANTONY KELLY - Credit: Archant

Dozens of young people have been detained for drug crimes in Norfolk in the last two years – some as young as 12, and the majority originating from outside the county. Ben Jolley went to Chapelfield Gardens, where there have been reports of drug use, to ask people's thoughts on county lines dealing.

A Norwich woman who regularly visits Chapelfield Gardens said it is 'disgusting' that dealers are getting the children 'to do their dirty work'.

She says she is also concerned for the health of younger children and dogs who go into the bushes.

'It worries me because they could just stand on the needles,' she said, adding that she often feels intimidated walking though the park.

'I wouldn't come here in the dark or late at night.'

'The parents need to keep an eye on the children too, though. When I bought my children up they weren't allowed out after a certain time of day; you never saw kids on the streets.

'We only see police round here when there's an event on – they come out and clean the park. They even painted the bandstand.'

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Another local user of the park branded it 'child exploitation' and puts the high number of arrests down to dealing being 'too tempting for the children.

'The dealers don't get affected but the young ones want the money to get new trainers.

'You see them all dressed in the latest tracksuits and they have their man bags full of cash.'

She added: 'I know a parent of one of the children who is dealing and they're absolutely oblivious about it'.

To improve the situation, the woman said there needs to be officers on patrol in local parks and for children to be educated about the dangers of drug use from an early age.

'They could have an officer or someone on patrol at least; if they put one on here every so often maybe it might deter them.

'They bragged to me before about the amount of money they had in their bag and I said to them 'well that's not going to look good on you CV when you're older. The money is just too good for them.

'It's a shame, too, because you're not seeing children playing football in the parks anymore – this is what they are doing instead.

'They should have a place where they can go and do what they've got to do out of the public eye. The needles can be disposed of properly and they can wash their hands afterwards, as simple as it sounds.

'Children also need to learn about the dangers of drug use from a young age – like they have sex education lessons. It's a part of life now; it's all about understanding.'

An elderly couple who have lived in Norwich for 10 years said: 'We do know that it goes on but haven't seen anything.

'When you walk through places like Chapelfield Gardens you can smell the cannabis. It's not a normal smell.

'But I think the police have a very difficult job on their hands and there are other important issues going on.

However a local parent, who moved to Norwich three years ago, hasn't noticed a dramatic change.

He said: 'It's no different to any other places I've been to over the last 20 or 30 years.

'I'm not aware of it happening but kids are kids; they used to go behind the bike sheds to do drugs – maybe now they just do it somewhere different.

'It doesn't really seem to have changed in my opinion.'

Tina Miles, who regularly walks through the park, said: 'When you walk through the gardens you smell cannabis and see youngsters having a smoke but I've not seen anything major myself.

'I never see any police patrolling around here though – only when there's an event on.'

Heather Angell, of Norwich, added: 'I haven't seen anything but it really happens because there's not enough police. If it was controlled more by authorities then I think it would help.

'The children are not getting enough education about drugs, either.'

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