Sniffing out trouble and smuggling in resort raids

Housing officers from Blackpool Council, police and fire enforcement officers wait to enter a property on Chapel Road, Blackpool.

Housing officers from Blackpool Council, police and fire enforcement officers wait to enter a property on Chapel Road, Blackpool.

Vulnerable residents living in desperate conditions and shopkeepers believed to be smuggling illegal goods were the focus of a day of action to tackle issues in a problematic part of the resort.

Unannounced visits were made to shops and properties in the Bloomfield ward of Blackpool, including Central Drive, Chapel Street and Ribble Road to speak to vulnerable residents and address their concerns.

A police sniffer dog and Trading Standards officers found cigarettes and tobacco hidden inside a vacuum cleaner and drinks packaging in the store room of town centre shop which they believe had been smuggled in to the country.

Karl Bischeff, from Trading Standards, said: “We have our dog handler here because shopkeepers are getting clever about where they are hiding things, like behind false walls.

“They are changing the goal posts so we are having to change the goal posts as well.

“In a deprived area like this, because people haven’t got a lot of money, they are forced into buying cheaper.”

Enforcement officers from Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service ensured private landlords had fitted fire alarms and signpost evacuation routes out of the flats.

Steve Hobson, an anti social behaviour officer for Blackpool Council’s Selective Licensing Team, said operations like this are important.

He said: “We are looking at a number of things like planning regulations and if there are no threats inside we will look at building standards and fire regulations.

“We also want to look at, and meet the needs of people, so if there is a young woman in there with unidentified needs we can help.”

Rachel Barnes, 40, of Central Drive, was visited as she is refusing to leave her home until somewhere suitable is found for herself and her two rottweilers.

She said: “The last two months have been awful and I’ve been in and out of hospital with kidney and chest infections.

“I want somewhere nice to live with my dogs that’s away from all of this noise, fighting and drugs.”

Coun Graham Cain, Bloomfield ward councillor, said: “We are doing our best to get people on the right course of action.

“There’s some vulnerable people in some dire properties and we want to get them on the right path and out of the squalor some are living in.”

Insp Matt Wilmott, of Lancashire Police said: “Part of this targeting day is showing the impact, such a big hit can have.”

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