A campaign is being launched to clean up drug supply and associated crimes across Cumbria.
The campaign is aiming to increase awareness of the tactics being used by drug suppliers in order to protect members of the public from exploitation and the knock-on effects of drug supply in their community.
The campaign is also aiming to encourage the public to share more information on what is going on in their community with police so officers can disrupt drug supply activity.
As in many other areas of the UK, Cumbria faces the issue of county lines. County lines is where organised crime groups from other areas of the country use young people or vulnerable adults to carry and sell drugs across county boundaries. In Cumbria it is often that crime groups from Merseyside or the Greater Manchester area set up operations here and exploit local members of the public. They do this in order to reduce their own risk of detection.
As part of this they may target a vulnerable person in the area they want to operate in and take over their home as a base to sell drugs from. This will often involve violence, intimidation and the offer of money or drugs. The use of a property for drug dealing leaves the vulnerable person homeless and is known as ‘cuckooing’. The operation will then exploit local drug users and can quickly lead to numbers of people indebted to the organised crime group. Crimes such as robbery and burglaries can then increase as offenders attempt to repay their suppliers.
Detective Chief Inspector David Stalker said: “We want the public to be aware of the tactics used by organised crime groups so they can spot the signs and help us disrupt and prosecute those involved in drug supply.
“It is well documented that in Cumbria we often see crime groups from the Merseyside and Manchester areas attempt to set up operations here. We work closely with other police forces and partner agencies to tackle these issues. We also have a proven track record in bringing a stop to these operations and putting offenders in prison.
“Keeping people safe is our main priority and we want to prevent local members of our communities being exploited by drug supply groups. The public have a role to play by sharing information on those dealing drugs in their local area. With this information we can investigate and disrupt activity making that area safer.
“The knock-on effect of drug supply is a common increase in robbery and acquisitive crime offences such as theft and burglary. This increase is caused by a drug user’s need to fund their next fix or repay debts as they have been threatened with violence. Rather than feel isolated we would encourage drug users to seek help in beating their addiction.
“Crime groups can also look to groom young people into their operations by the lure of money and a social status. By maintaining healthy communication with your children you can identify who they are socialising with and whether they may be detrimental to their lives.
“The majority of the Cumbrian public will not want to live in areas where open drugs markets emerge. I can reassure the public that we will continue to gain further intelligence on suppliers and your information can be vital.
“Working together we can clean up communities by putting pressure on those that ruin lives and line their own pockets.”
Cumbria’s Police and Crime Commissioner Peter McCall said: “I strongly support this campaign to bear down on those who supply and deal drugs in our communities, they are a real danger especially to young and vulnerable people.
“Information is key to success and I ask that we all work together to stamp this out in our county, and help protect those who may be exploited, for whatever reason, from getting involved. I cannot stress enough how important it is for people with any information that might help stop the supply of drugs and bring the perpetrators to justice, to get in touch.
“Let’s send a powerful message to drug dealers that there is no place for them in Cumbria.”
Anyone with information on the supply of drugs is asked to contact police on 101 or contact Crimestoppers, anonymously, on 0800 555 111.