A LONG-TIME drug addict says big city dealers have made ‘scoring drugs’ in Warwickshire towns easier than ever.
A recovering heroin addict contacted The Observer after seeing our exclusive report on so-called county lines – well-organised criminal gangs from the likes of Birmingham, Wolverhampton and Leicester which target addicts on their own doorstep.
The gangs set up a dedicated phone line to advertise the drugs and send ‘runners’ to take over the homes of vulnerable residents – often users – to enable them to deal at street level.
The National Crime Agency has found growing evidence of the practice across Britain, and Leamington, Rugby and Stratford have all been targeted by county lines gangs.
The addict, who we have called Dave to protect his identity, has been a user for some 20 years, and used to have to travel to Birmingham to get his drugs, but added users no longer had to with county lines operations.
Dave said it was easy for ‘desperate and sick’ users to score from the gangs whose members did not use drugs themselves.
He told The Observer: “The changes I’ve witnessed over the last ten years have been dramatic.
“These days it’s incredibly easy. You get multiple text messages every day with messages saying things like ‘shop open’ and ‘two for £15’.
“They deliver as much as you want, when you want. Some offer a 24 hour service.
“Every time I scored it was nearly always at some poor vulnerable person’s house that had been taken over.
“Sometimes you’d go into a room with several armed guys with knives and machetes on show.
“It’s surreal, bizzare and very wrong.”
He claimed street dealers, some as young as 16, could earn up to £2,000 in a morning.
The Observer spoke to Ch Insp Faz Chishty of Warwickshire Police following several raids by the force on addresses being used by county lines gangs.
They have resulted in dozens of arrests, the seizure of thousands of pounds in cash, and large quantities of drugs, including cocaine and heroin, and the recovery of an array of weapons, from machetes to a Samurai sword.
But the threat from ‘county lines’ remains in Warwickshire, and Dave believes police, with increasing cuts to resources, face an uphill battle in the war on drugs.
Dave said many times he had been enticed to transport dealers to reload supplies and drop off cash in exchange for drugs.
But as ‘a tall, fit guy’ with cash to pay for drugs he had always refused. He added others had not been in a position to refuse.
Ch Insp Chishty said police were working to identify those susceptible to help stop them becoming victims of the gangs.
But Dave said being known as an informant could get a person seriously hurt and it was unlikely anyone would accept help from police.
He added: “The police have never helped me or anyone I know.
“I honestly don’t think people are aware just how bad the situation is. I’ve never known Stratford to have such a problem and it’s worsening.”