'No carpets, every window smashed, blood on the ceiling': Council chiefs hail operation targeting Hartlepool 'drugs dens'

Community safety team bosses praised the creation of the group for allowing them to carry out operations which ‘would not have been possible’ in the past.

Sunday, 8th September 2019, 08:00 am
Members of the Hartlepool Community Safety Team.

Hartlepool Community Safety Team was launched in February 2018 bringing together community safety staff from Hartlepool Borough Council, Cleveland Police, Cleveland Fire Brigade, and Cleveland Victim Care and Advice Service.

Nicholas Stone, neighbourhood safety team leader, gave a presentation to the Hartlepool Audit and Governance Committee, providing two case studies of operations carried out stemming from anti-social behaviour concerns.

Operation Otley, which focused on the Wynyard Mews complex of flats, tackled numerous reports of drug dealing and serious criminality.

Mr Stone said following reporting campaigns, day of action, CCTV and contacting landlords, they were able to gain multiple drug warrants and close down five ‘drug dens’.

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He also noted such large scale operation would not have been possible in the past.

He said: “We had residents living in fear and virtually no reports to the police or council due to fear of retaliation.

“It took over eight months to gain the confidence of those residents to give us information. They gained confidence in us, it was like a snowball effect.

“On the back of that we were able to go over that eight month period of time and close down five drug dens.

“We initially targeted the worst address in Wynyard Mews, that address was indescribable.

“It was no carpets, every window smashed, blood on the ceiling. It was like a stereotypical drugs den, how bad you can imagine it, it was worse, I was literally washing excrement out of my shoes after going there, it was awful.

“This operation would not have happened three years ago because we didn’t have this team.

“Police would have done raids, we would have looked at it, the benefits of this joint team and the model that we’ve got is that we’re now able to tackle those problems that have been historically around for a while.”

He also gave an example of the open spaces and parks operation in March this year, following a sudden spike in reports of anti-social behaviour involving young people across ‘virtually every single park and play area around Hartlepool’.

It included offences such as verbal abuse, stone throwing, fire setting, criminal damage and more, and the team subsequently launched a publicity team and extra patrols to tackle issue.

Officers said 46 young people were identified as being involved in anti-social behaviour, with around 50% of them identified by members of the public, and just five previously known to services.

In total 38 young people were spoken to along with their parents, many who were ‘horrified’ according to Mr Stone, with behaviour agreements signed with a further 8 young people and 18 carried out restorative work to the parks and litter picking.

Rachel Parker, community safety team leader, praised the work of the team, but warned further cuts could impede the work.

She said: “Despite the low numbers of officers we’ve got there has been an inordinate amount of work carried out and a lot of success in the last 18 months.

“What the risk is if we were cut any further we wouldn’t be able to have the impact we are having.”