Criminals on the run amid new action to stamp out drug dealing in parks
- Credit: Archant
Drug dealing has blighted green spaces across Norwich for years and authorities have now pledged to work together to root out the criminals.
City folk have expressed concerns over drug dealing taking place across Norwich's parks with gangs often seen hanging around under the cover of darkness.
West End Street Gardens - located just off Adelaide Street in Heigham Grove - is among the parks which have resembled a crime scene in recent memory.
The green space was the scene of a shooting in June 2018 in which a teenager from London was shot as two men, Kallum Eastall and Jake Brittain, were jailed for up to 27 years.
Superintendent Terry Lordan, Norwich policing commander said local beat managers are doing what they can to shake that image, and are regularly patrol the area.
He added officers are working closely with the city council to ensure the green space is more open to deter any criminal activity.
Dr Kevin Maguire, Labour councillor for the Wensum Ward and Lord Mayor of Norwich, said over £20,000 is being spent to improve the park to make it lighter, accessible and safer.
Dr Maguire said: "West End Street Gardens has had thousands spent on new multi-use games courts being installed and CCTV has been installed too.
"More widely, offenders using our council properties to deal drugs have been evicted and removed. Alley-gates to protect vulnerable properties in Nelson Street near the park have also been installed.
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"Thankfully the local police team, despite cuts, has been happy to step up patrols in the area when we have spoken to them."
Such partnerships between officers and the council have been taking place across the city's open spaces.
A spokeswoman for Norfolk Police said: "Patrols of our parks and open spaces take place on a regular basis, conducted by all officers, but primarily by our Neighbourhood Policing Teams, which includes our activity under the #Streetsafe scheme.
"These patrols will vary from day-to-day patrols, through to targeted activity based on any ongoing or emerging issues, and are balanced against other competing demands and risks that our officers may be managing at any time."
Norwich City Council works in partnership with the police and drug-prevention services to try and address drug dependency across the city.
A spokesman for the council said: "We invest significantly in our parks and open spaces to encourage legitimate use of them, and support locals to become involved in their maintenance and upkeep as well.
"If there are any incidents in these spaces which require police involvement, we will share information with them and try to identify ways of preventing similar events taking place in the future."
Norwich North MP Chloe Smith has been informed about drug dealing in Anderson's Meadow which led to a swift response and action from the local Safer Neighbourhood Team.
Ms Smith said: "Drug dealing in parks and public spaces is a danger to us all. I take this very seriously, as do my constituents.
"Following concerns from my constituents, I have had meetings with Norfolk Police and the British Transport Police too to discuss the issue of county lines drug dealing.
"I would encourage anyone who becomes aware of drug dealing in public places, or if they suspect it, to report it to their local neighbourhood policing teams via the Norfolk Constabulary website."
The impact of county lines and drug dealing in parks has also been noticed in suburban areas.
Clare Lincoln, leader of the Sprowston Youth Engagement Project, said there was county lines activity in the town's Barkers Lane in the summer.
Ms Lincoln said: "I think a lot of young people are on the cusp of county lines and are aware of what is going on. There are young people who could be easily drawn into it."
The SYEP tries to build up a rapport with youngsters to discuss problems in a non-confrontational manner.
Ms Lincoln said there has been a rise in youngsters smoking cannabis with many inspired by a "music culture".