Cocaine dealing in Accrington is leading to a surge in drug-related violence in the borough, Hyndburn’s MP has claimed.
Graham Jones told the Observer that he believes clashes on the streets of Accrington have been caused by a wider turf war between dealers coming forward to fill the power vacuum left after major drugs raids by police in the town in 2013.
Backing our Killer Cocaine: Stop the Deaths campaign, Mr Jones said he has been heavily involved in conversations with senior commanders and police officers as well as community leaders about the drugs problem and what can be done about it.
He also pledged to raise the issue with Home Office ministers.
He said: “These things come in cycles, those dawn raids [in 2013] led to a number of prison sentences for higher professional drug dealers in Accrington and unfortunately what follows that is turf wars.
“Because of the huge quantities of money involved, it’s led to various people who were lower down the pecking order last time now beginning to fight amongst themselves to replace the dealers that were locked up in 2013 and as a consequence we have seen a spike in drug-related violence.
“I would suspect that at the end of this cycle we will have another round-up of drug dealers who will be following their predecessors to prison for lengthy sentences.”
Mr Jones said the use of cocaine and other hard drugs is the ‘number one’ issue in west Accrington and a problem that impacts the whole of the borough.
He said: “We don’t know the answer to the increased number of deaths - whether there is an increased consumption or contamination. For a starting point we can assume that it’s both.
“Those drug dealers behind it are quite happy to wield machetes.
"They are not bothered if the drugs they cut are laced with chemicals that put someone’s life at risk, they are not bothered about anyone losing their lives as a result of these drugs.
“I have asked the police to bring in sniffer dog units. The war on drugs is going to be escalated and I accept that when we lead the next round-up of drug dealers there will be future drug dealers that will take their place.
"Until the nation can decide whether the decriminalisation of drugs would be beneficial that won’t change. But anyone who buys drugs is tacitly supporting violence, supporting illegal activity and the problems of drug dealers.”
He added: “There is nothing ‘party’ about cocaine and the effects and the misery it brings.
"I think that addictive cocaine is seen by a minority of young people as attractive, but what you’re paying for is a crippling depressive low that come after a high, it’s a vicious cycle that traps you in addiction.”
Lancashire Police told the Observer that they are committed to taking drugs off our streets.
A spokesman said: “The activities of drug dealers can have a dramatic effect on our communities.
"It can ruin lives, fuel other crime, such as burglary and robbery, and can instil fear in our neighbourhoods and we are determined to tackle that.
The vast majority of our activities are driven by community intelligence and so we need the public to work with us by reporting any suspicious activity to us so we can take action.
“Information can be reported to us by calling 101 or anonymously via Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555111 or online at crimestoppers-uk.org.”
Issue not just ‘poor person’s problem’
Graham Jones has urged parents not to assume that cocaine and drug use is a ‘poor person’s problem’.
Mr Jones said: “My message is that there are young adults who are drawn into drug deals often through their friends and peers, and whilst this doesn’t apply to the majority, every area in Hyndburn has this problem.
“I would say to parents, don’t assume this is a poor person’s problem and it won’t apply to you. Through party holidays and festivals many young people think taking cocaine is a normal part of having fun - but it’s not.
“Its effects are to cause misery and devastation in the long run.
“It is almost certain that some young people on your estate are consuming cocaine and that needs to end.
“It’s a wake-up call for those that think this is a problem for deprived areas. It’s too late when their son or daughter is zipped up in a body bag thinking ‘how does this happen’.”
Mr Jones added: “I will be raising this with Home Office ministers and when I can challenge the government on policing cuts that have made tackling these drugs on the streets an almost impossible task.
“I am delighted to back the Accrington Observer in this important awareness campaign that will save lives.
“I think it’s fantastic that the Observer is running this campaign.”
The Observer has launched a campaign to highlight the devastating toll that cocaine is taking on our communities.
We have joined forces with coroner Michael Singleton after he warned that deaths caused by this evil drug have reached epidemic levels.
In the last nine months alone the number of people officially recorded as having lost their lives in the Hyndburn area as a result of using cocaine has risen to 17. The youngest was 16, the oldest just 33.
These are just the cases to have reached the coroner and it is thought that the actual number could be much higher.
Mr Singleton is at a loss to explain why this epidemic is occurring here and now in Accrington, but it is thought increased availability or a drop in price could be to blame.
We are calling on all sections of the Hyndburn community to pull together to take this evil drug off our streets.
So please watch out for signs of cocaine use, make sure your loved ones are aware of the dangers and give the police the information they need to bring down the dealers profiting from this deadly powder.
What can you do to help?
- Educate yourself and others – National organisations such as Frank offer detailed explanations of what the short-term and long-term effects of drug use are and the risks.
- Talk openly about it – Speak to friends and family and create an honest dialogue.
- Spot signs of drug use – Cocaine can change people’s personality. In the short term cocaine can make a user feel confident and wide awake. But repeated use can cause agitated behaviour, mood swings, severe addiction and heart attacks.
- Offer support – If you are concerned someone you know is taking cocaine, offer support or encourage them to get help.
- Seek help and advice – Confidential 24-hour chatlines and local services are open to anyone with concerns.
- Alert police – if you suspect someone might be dealing drugs, tell police on 101 or anonymously by calling Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.