‘NO TURF WARS IN OUR CITY’
Police chief’s pledge as London drug dealers blamed for knife crime spike
A spike in knife crime across Canterbury has been blamed on drug dealers from London as the city’s police chief insists he will not allow a “turf war” on his patch.
The number of people caught carrying blades in the district has soared by 50% in the last two years, with a third more crimes in which they have been used as a weapon.
Only this month, Canterbury police officers tweeted that they were “taking knives off the street on every shift”.
Area commander Chief Insp Mark Weller says the rise is largely caused by drug dealers travelling down from the capital.
“Our message to anyone coming to Canterbury to deal drugs, and carrying knives or blades is that it will not be tolerated,” he said.
“There are turf wars over drugs in London, but that is not going to happen on our patch.
“We are operating a zero-tolerance policy against drugs and knives.”
In a flurry of tweets this month, police in the district shared images of knives being confiscated in stop and search and other operations.
They included ones seized from suspected drug dealers – including those who were involved in what is known as ‘cuckooing’, where dealers take over the homes of vulnerable people and use them as bases for their illicit trade.
Chief Insp Weller says officers are working closely with their colleagues in the Met Police, swapping intelligence on drugs gangs who also operate outside the capital.
“It’s a constant cat- andmouse game because they are very switched on about moving it around,” he explained.
“And they often use younger people with little or no convictions.”
Despite the rise in offences, Chief Insp Weller insists there is no knife culture in the district and there should be no cause for alarm.
“Although the percentage increases look high, the actual numbers are not,” he said.
“The good thing about these numbers is that we are not talking about stabbings in Canter- bury, which are very rare.
“And the chances of any member of the public becoming embroiled in something like this with a knife is very remote.”
On January 3, a 19-year-old stopped in the city was charged with possessing a knife in public and dealing heroin and cocaine.
The day before, in Herne Bay, a 42-year-old was charged with a knife offence following a disturbance in the Rose Inn.
On January 5, police tweeted that a 15-year-old from London was arrested on suspicion of cuckooing at a house in the Canterbury, where a number of knives were discovered.
‘We are operating a zero-tolerance policy against drugs and knives’
Three days later, a cyclist was robbed of cash by two men wielding a knife along an alleyway between Greyfriars Gardens and St Peter’s Grove.
Chief Insp Weller says the proactive enforcement by officers has led to more knives being seized, especially by the city’s community policing team.
“We are actively protecting vulnerable people because drug gangs just use them as a commodity,” he said.
“A by-product of the work we are doing is we are finding a few more knives. I think it is very likely we have stopped a death because we are so robustly policing organised criminality with zero tolerance.”
Knives seized in the space of just six days
Ch Insp Mark Weller
Canterbury area commander Chief Insp Mark Weller says a drug problem is to blame for city’s soaring knife crime figures; London teenager Gideon Wallace is disarmed after attack