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Suffolk leaders pledge £500,000 for pilot project to tackle drug lines and gangs across county

PUBLISHED: 19:09 09 March 2018 | UPDATED: 20:51 09 March 2018

Suffolk Police and Crime Commissioner Tim Passmore. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Suffolk Police and Crime Commissioner Tim Passmore. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

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A £500,000, two-year pilot scheme is to be launched in Suffolk to combat drug dealing and gang violence.

Suffolk police officers during a recent raid in the county. Picture: ARCHANTSuffolk police officers during a recent raid in the county. Picture: ARCHANT

The funding for the scheme was secured after the county’s public sector leaders were told that an estimated 24 drug dealing operations had been identified in Suffolk.

Known as “district lines’’, they operate using mobile phone networks to extend drug dealing activities from London into the county. Thirteen have been identified in Ipswich, eight in west Suffolk and three in the east.

But a report to yesterday’s meeting of public sector leaders and chief executives said the figures were “probably an underestimate’’ as there was evidence of activity in Bury St Edmunds, Lowestoft, Newmarket, Haverhill, Leiston, Stowmarket and Kesgrave.

Police and crime commissioner Tim Passmore said: “I do think this is a really serious threat to the county. We know there is plenty of evidence of this drug activity which I think has touched every single district and borough in the county.”

Ipswich Borough Council leader David Ellesmere. Picture: CONTRIBUTEDIpswich Borough Council leader David Ellesmere. Picture: CONTRIBUTED

Leaders initially planned to contribute £40,000 from pooled business rates income to launch the multi-agency team, but instead pledged £500,000 because of the need to act quickly and the wider economic impact.

Ipswich Borough Council leader David Ellesmere said: “It’s something that’s happening across the county and it needs to be tackled on a county-wide basis. We have identified what needs to be done and I think we really need to get on and do it because the people doing this activity aren’t stopping while we are talking.”

Leaders agreed the problem needed to be tackled county-wide to prevent drug activity simply being pushed out of Ipswich and into other parts of Suffolk.

The multi-agency team aims to co-ordinate efforts to tackle drugs and related gang culture and to conduct early-intervention and education work with young people to stop them getting involved in the first place.

Suffolk Coastal District Council leader Ray Herring said: “We have a lot to protect. The east coast, from a tourism perspective, we have a low crime area and it’s important that for our own wellbeing we continue to attract that because we need that investment and I don’t want to see that disappear.”

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