‘It should worry us’ - Police chief warns number of drug addicts is on the rise

Chief Constable Simon Bailey at Norfolk Constabulary Headquarters, Wymondham. Photo : Steve Adams

Chief Constable Simon Bailey at Norfolk Constabulary Headquarters, Wymondham. Photo : Steve Adams - Credit: Steve Adams

Norfolk's police chief has warned the number of addicts around the county is on the rise, and higher than estimates suggest.

Simon Bailey, Norfolk police's chief constable, said he believes homelessness and child exploitation, which are "inextricably linked to addiction", are some of the greatest challenges facing the county.

Speaking to faith leaders from across Norwich at the city's first Faith and Police Together meeting, Mr Bailey called for organisations and individuals to work together to tackle the issues.

The chief constable said: "There is a significant challenge for the city around homelessness.

"Whenever you go into the city you see people who, quite clearly, are living in the most awful conditions, who are probably suffering from both poor mental health and poor physical health."

Mr Bailey said homelessness was often linked to drug addiction, and said: "The price of heroin and cocaine has never been as cheap and its purity has never been as high. An 80pc pure bag of cocaine can be bought for £10.

"We talk about there being 2,000 addicts in the county - I think we can conservatively double that and the numbers are growing.

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"Far too many people are becoming dependant on those drugs and lead chaotic lives and children are growing up amongst that chaos."

The chief constable, who is also the National Police Chiefs Council's lead on child protection, said more needed to be done to protect children caught up in criminal activity.

He said: "At the heart of child criminal exploitation are a group of terribly vulnerable children.

"They are being exploited in sexual exploitation, being trafficked or be it in terms of the transportation of drugs into the county, sometimes children aged only eight or nine. It is impacting every town and city in the country and Norwich is no exception.

"Across Norfolk, you are more likely to be the victim of a serious sexual offence than to have your house burgled - and that should worry us."

Held on Tuesday, November 26, at Soul Church in Norwich, the Faith and Police Together meeting was attended by 50 leaders from different faiths from across Norwich.