Police chief’s pledge as London drug deal­ers blamed for knife crime spike

Kentish Gazette Canterbury & District - - Front Page - Gwar­ren@thek­m­group.co.uk @Ger­ry_war­ren

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

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