A special Gazette investigation has revealed the true picture of drug abuse on Blackpool streets. Reporter ELIZABETH BROUGHTON looks at the facts and figures – and speaks to those most affected.
The truth about how drugs are infiltrating resort communities can today be revealed.
Police have seized more than 1,000 drugs across Blackpool, Fylde and Wyre in the last year – and today communities have spoken out to The Gazette about the devastating impact drugs are having on their lives.
Cocaine, heroin, cannabis and amphetamines have all been seized from offenders as young as 13, with drugs blighting almost every area of the town.
On pages six and seven we reveal where those drugs have been found, and what police and the council are doing to tackle the issues.
Det Chief Insp Brian Quinn, from Blackpool CID, said: “The issue we take really seriously in Blackpool is targeting those people who profit from drugs, not those who suffer.
“Our primary concern when drug dealers become ingrained in a community is they have a knock-on effect in terms they bring into that area.
“It brings criminality and it brings disorder. We will target those people – they don’t have any responsibility to our communities and they bring problems to them.”
Some of the most shocking figures, released to The Gazette under a Freedom of Information request, include a 15-year-old boy found with heroin on Carlin Gate, Bispham, a 15-year-old found with a cannabis plant on Talbot Road, in Blackpool town centre and two 13-year-old’s found with drugs in separate incidents on Blackpool’s Whitegate Drive. One youngster had three lots of unidentified drugs while the second had a cannabis plant.
Many of the offenders caught by police in the last year are in their teens or early 20s – the age Beryl Hudson’s granddaughter, Melissa Faulkner, was when she died from a fatal cocktail of heroin and painkillers.
The 23-year-old was found dead at her mother’s home on Bryning Avenue, Bispham, in June 2009, and Ms Hudson, from Ansdell, said: “You would not think she died three years ago, it feels like it happened yesterday.
“I still miss her – time is not a healer, it anaesthetises.”
Last month, The Gazette told the shocking story of a Fylde schoolgirl whose life spiralled out of control after she was sexually exploited and ran up a £5,000 drugs debt at the age of just 12.
Now 15, the youngster shared her harrowing story in a bid to stop other Blackpool children following in her footsteps.
Known as Stacey, to protect her identity, she grew up in the resort with her father after being abandoned by her mother at the age of six.
But it was not until she started at high school as an 11-year-old her life began to go downhill, with Stacey becoming addicted to drugs including cocaine and mephedrone – known locally as ‘bubble’ – going missing for days on end and associating with older men, some of who were known sex offenders.
Bubble is a relatively new phenomenon. Bought for just £10 on the streets, police admit it is a new challenge.
Bubble’s increased popularity among social users, due to its reported effects similar to cocaine, amphetamines and ecstasy – and its perceived legality – have seen its use boom.
However, its dangerous side effects – which include short-term memory loss and hallucinations – make it a threat for both police and society.
The council and police have stressed they are pro-actively trying to rid Blackpool of its drug dealers, and Gwen King, chairman of the Queens Park Residents Association, said issues on the estate had greatly improved in recent years.
She added: “Drugs are endemic up and down the country.
“It’s not just the user it affects, it affects everyone around them.”
Terry Bennett, chairman of the Grange Park Community Partnership, said: “I’m very concerned about the problems we’re having. Although it is not as a bad as it used to be it’s a long way off being cured. A lot of other crime on the estate is linked to drug use.”
Cannabis farms have sprung up in disused hotels and houses across Blackpool.
Officers from the North West Regional Organised Crime Unit (Titan), alongside the regional police forces have launched a special operation to crack down on cannabis cultivation across the region.
It came off the back of Nimrod, Lancashire Police’s ongoing operation which targets street level dealers. It has put drug peddlers behind bars for more than 350 years since being launched in April 2002.
It has seen routine raids across Blackpool, while resort’s neighbourhood policing team increased patrols to tackle dealers who are coming into town to sell their deadly goods.
And Coun Eddie Collett, Blackpool Council’s cabinet member for crime and community safety, said: “There’s no escaping there are drugs in some of our local communities.
“We won’t stop drugs in Blackpool simply by arresting people – we need to think smarter in order to stop them before they get into people’s pockets.
“That work is happening now, as we, along with the police, have recently purchased a thermal imaging camera, which allows us to spot the drugs farms that people are growing in their own homes and carry out the necessary action to close them down.”
To report a drug dealer in your community call Crimestoppers on 0800 555111.
THE WIDE VARIETY OF SUBSTANCES SEIZED IN BLACKPOOL IN JUST ONE YEAR
Cannabis - 544 seizures
Heroin - 66 seizures
Amphetamine - 51 seizures
Cocaine/crack cocaine - 149 seizures
Ecstasy/MDMA - 22 seizures
Other/unidentified (including methadone and diazepam) - 264 seizures
TOP 10 DANGEROUS DRUGS IN UK
Heroin – Popular street names include smack, skag, and junk. Street price is £10 to £20 per bag, 300,000 UK users and kills 700 UK people a year.
Cocaine – Often referred to as snow, flake, coke, and blow. Street price is £30-60/g powder. 780,000 UK users. 214 UK deaths a year.
Barbiturates – Popular slang names include yellow jackets, reds and Amy’s. Street price is £1 to £2 per tablet and they kill 20 a year in the UK.
Street Methadone – Street price is £10 per 100ml. 33,000 illegal UK users and 295 a year die.
Alcohol – Street price starts at £1. Responsible for 40,000 deaths each year.
Ketamine – A powerful hallucinogen, known as Special K. Ranging from £15 per 40g. 100,000 users and on average one death a year in the UK.
Benzodiazepines – A family of sedative drugs. The 100,000 UK users pay about £1 for 4 x 5mg capsules and 406 people in the UK die each year.
Amphetamines – Known as billy or speed. Street price from £8 to £12 per wrap. 430,000 UK users and 35 UK deaths a year.
Tobacco – 10m UK users – 114,000 deaths a year.
Buprenorphine - Also called bupe or subbies. Street price is £2 for 4 x 8mg capsules. There are about two UK deaths a year.
Source: The Lancet