Teenagers being dragged into drug dealing is an issue but police say it’s isolated and the town remains safe

Knife crime

Knife crime - Credit: Archant

Police rely on intelligence from public to fight drug crime in Huntingdon

A police officer has said that he has seen children as young as 13 being drawn into drug dealing in Huntingdon, but he believes incidents such as these are isolated, and the town remains a safe place to live.

Detective chief inspector Nick Skipworth told The Hunts Post that teenagers are being drawn into organised crime groups, mostly to drug deal in the area, but has said that residents should not worried, as these incidents are "very rare".

He said: "There is a risk of individuals being drawn into serious and organised crime. There is always going to be that risk, the criminals within that generation right now are looking for their next generation to come in and do their work for them, and it is criminal child exploitation.

"We have seen in Huntingdon some gangs attempt to recruit young people. We are seeing 14 and 13-year-olds occasionally be sent from the base where they operate to different areas, that model has moved on now and we are now seeing them come here to try and recruit.

That isn't an epidemic, it's not massive, it is isolated, and we are finding out about it very quickly and working in partnerships with other agencies to do stuff around that, schools especially."

DCI Skipworth also said that new officers recruited last year, have helped play a part in detecting organised crime in the area, particularly county lines drug dealers.

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County Lines is a term used when drug gangs from big cities expand their operations to smaller towns, often using violence to drive out local dealers and exploiting children and vulnerable people to sell drugs.

"Some of the new officers that have been recruited last year, have been very successful in identifying people in organised crime groups in Huntingdon. Which has had a massive influence on crime for a while. We are now going about disrupting that group. That is working really well. So there's some really good work going on around catching and convicting.

"We have used our uplift in officers really productively and we are doing things we haven't done before. We still target county lines, we always have been, and we are doing more around organised crime as well, and we are seeing real benefits around that in Huntingdon.

In October last year, 17 arrests were made by police across the county as part of the crackdown, alongside 872 individual wraps of drugs seized.

Proactive activity was carried out by local policing teams, including intelligence-led patrols, stop-searches and warrants.

This resulted in about £10,000 worth of crack cocaine, heroin, cocaine and cannabis being seized, as well as two knives and £15,206 in cash.

DCI Skipworth also said that the community action team had been targeting people in the county who they suspect could be carrying weapons, especially knives.

He said: "We also look at importation of weapons to the UK, including tasers and batons. We are not looking to go after 'Joe public' who may order things as a mistake, but where we know someone is likely to be violent, where we see those people, we are going to deal with it.

"I think statistically we are in a really safe place.

"Officers stopping and searching people, identifying the dealers, and recognising those likely to have knives on them, those are the types of police methodology that have shown results and I am really pleased with some of the work that is going on."

However, DCI Skipworth has said that the officers are reliant heavily on people reporting crimes, and that the public have a vital part to play.

"We do rely on people giving us intelligence and information, it really does help us.

"We are trying our best to work together with everyone, this includes social services, schools and even the NHS. It's a joint effort and we are thankful for the help that we get."

According to data released from the Office for National Statistics, which was published last October, in the 12 months to the end of June 2019, knife crime offences rose by seven per cent, reaching a record high.

The number of offences involving a knife or sharp instrument increased from just over 41,000 in the year to June 2018 to just over 44,000 in the last 12 months.

However, the total number of murders recorded by police forces fell by five per cent in the last year, from 719 to 681 offences.