Up to 20 drugs gangs target Norwich
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We need you to be our eyes and ears to help stem the surge of drug-related violence in our county.
That is the message from Norfolk Police as a critical incident has been declared over the unprecedented levels of violence involving knives linked to the drug trade in recent months.
Two further serious stabbings occurred in Great Yarmouth and Norwich last week and police chiefs have made ending the violence a force priority.
Today, the EDP is lending our support to officers with our Let's Get Them Out campaign asking our readers to be extra vigilant.
Operation Gravity was launched towards the end of last year as a response to the worrying rise in stabbings in the county, particularly at the urban hubs of Norwich, Great Yarmouth and King's Lynn.
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Six serious violent incidents involving knives, including four stabbings with multiple injuries, were connected to county line drug networks in the first two weeks of December.
There is not thought to be a wider risk to the public but the level of violence has become intolerable for police.
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As a result of efforts by the Metropolitan Police to target drug gangs in the capital, many are now focusing on nearby counties.
They often use young people as drug runners, and will coerce vulnerable local people into dealing for them.
The homes of drug users will be 'cuckooed', as gangs exploit their addiction to use their home as a base.
It is estimated around 20 drug cells, primarily from London, are operating within Norwich and the Safer Neighbourhood Action Team are actively targeting homes in the city to frustrate the gangs as soon as they put down roots.
A man in his 20s stabbed in the chest outside the Red Herring pub on Havelock Road in Great Yarmouth on January 5 was found by members of the public and is now stable, with the incident being linked to the drug trade.
A further serious stabbing connected to drugs followed in Norwich on January 7.
T/ACC Mike Fawcett of Norfolk Police said: 'What we need is for the community to rally around. The more information people give us relating to suspicious activity, the better able we are to corroborate that and take action. 'We need help and we promise we will take the information and act on it.'
The drug trade has an impact on us all, T/ACC Fawcett added, not only drug users. 'If Norfolk becomes a place with a propensity for drug dealing, that will have an impact on the people who live here. Though the community may think it is nothing to do with them, while our resources are responding to serious crimes those resources can't be used for other matters in our county. 'That has an impact on our ability to respond to other incidents.'
Chief Superintendent Dave Marshall, county policing commander, said by eradicating drugs from the streets the lives of our most vulnerable people can be protected.
'We can look at alternatives to safeguard them and take them out of danger,' he said. 'People may think that by putting a closure order on a house and removing the tenant it is entirely negative, but quite often those people are victims. By removing them we are safeguarding them and can take them to a safer location. 'Even if people are not involved in the drugs scene, parents would clearly not want their children to be approached by drug dealers or become influenced by them in any way. 'We want to make sure we are safeguarding every member of our community, both now and in the future.'
Editor of the EDP and Norwich Evening News David Powles said: 'We are lucky enough to live in a county where drug-related violent crime is rare when compared to other places. That said it was clear from conversations with the Chief Constable that a worrying trend is developing and there are real concerns it will have serious complications.
'We need to stamp this problem out quickly before more people are hurt and the public can play an important part in that. None of us want this type of activity to happen here and we are happy to do our bit to spread this important message.'
The effect of drugs in the community hit home to residents of Canterbury Place in Norwich in the early hours of yesterday morning as 26 members of the public dialled 999 during a 'large scale disturbance'.
Officers were called at 2.25am and on arrival officers searched an address and found a number of items linked to drug dealing activity including hundreds of wraps and more than 40 plastic chocolate egg centres which are commonly used to transport drugs.
A woman, aged in her 30s and from the Norwich area, has been arrested on suspicion of possession of a Class A drug.
Anyone with information about drug activity in their area should contact Norfolk Police on 101. Alternatively Crimestoppers can be contacted anonymously on 0800 555 111.
Crime commissioner backs campaign
Lorne Green, police and crime commissioner for Norfolk, has welcomed the campaign and urged people to come forward if they see suspicious activity.
'There must be a word of warning,' he said.
'If the public does confront or come into contact with potentially dangerous activity, do not try to be a police officer but report it quickly. If it is something in progress dial 999.
'Intelligence driven policing is critical to making this a safer county and I would want to encourage people to come forward with intelligence if they see suspect activity, but do not attempt to challenge it.
'We have roughly 1,500 police officers in this county, and that is 1,500 pairs of eyes, but we have a population of around 800,000. If we all accept our responsibilities we increase exponentially our chances of fighting this totally unacceptable activity in this county.
'This is a constant campaign because there is no place in this county for these people. We really welcome the power of the EDP and Evening News and the media in general working with us to make sure we rid the county of this cancer.
'This activity not only threatens the community at large but threatens the vulnerable people in it. They might seem complicit in these activities when in fact they themselves are victims to a degree.
'We often hear the dramatic stories but there are unseen levels of violence as well, and intelligence driven policing can begin to address that.'
What can I do?
If you suspect drug dealing in your neighbourhood it may look like:
Groups of people coming and going from an address at all times of the day and night
Groups of people in the area you do not recognise
The discarding of Class A paraphernalia such as syringes and cellophane
General anti-social behaviour without any other explanation
If you want to remain completely anonymous, please report any information to independent charity Crimestoppers, on 0800 555111 or alternatively www.crimestoppers-uk.org.
They will not take any personal details and your email address and phone numbers cannot be traced.