Wed, 21 Aug 2019
Hermitage in purple on the drugs map
COUNTY lines dealers are using Chieveley Services to bring drugs into West Berkshire.
District councillor for Chieveley and Cold Ash Hilary Cole said that it was a “known problem”.
A map published by the BBC this week shows that, overall, the number of drug crimes in most West Berkshire towns and villages have fallen.
However, in Hermitage they have trebled over the past five years, from three in 2013 to nine in 2018.
Mrs Cole said she thinks that it is unlikely that the quiet West Berkshire village is a “hot bed for drug crime” and is questioning whether the figures may include Chieveley Services.
She added said: “It could have something to do with the M4 corridor.
“There could also be a confusion geographically between Hermitage and Chieveley Services.
“There is an awful lot of county lines drug dealing going on at Chieveley Services, it is a known problem.
“I can’t imagine that Hermitage itself is a hot bed for drug crime.”
County lines often involves gangs from cities expanding operations to towns, exploiting children and vulnerable people to sell drugs.
Thames Valley Police and Crime Commissioner Anthony Stansfeld said: “County lines dealing is a national problem.
“It is happening in West Berkshire, but compared to other places it is relatively under control.
“I’ve not seen [the BBC] data, and I’m always a bit sceptical about these figures, but I don’t think there’s a huge problem with drugs in Hermitage.
“It wouldn’t surprise me in the least if Chieveley Services was being used by county lines dealers as it is on the main crossroads in terms of the M4 and A34.”
‘Drug crime’ refers to drug-related incidents reported to or identified by the police that an officer classes as criminal, whether or not the crime results in a charge.
In Newbury, the number of drug crimes has fallen from 274 in 2013 to 205 in 2018. In Thatcham, the number has almost halved, from 81 in 2017 to 42 in 2019.
Assistant Chief Constable Chris Green, the head of the North-West Regional Organised Crime Unit, told the BBC: “As a society, as law enforcement, as people who work in the public sector, as the public, we all need to come together and we all need to understand that this is happening on our streets right across the country.
“And we need to work together, as we are, to do something about it.
“If you have someone who is criminally exploiting a child, a young person, for the purposes of criminality, they are ruining their lives by exposing them to risk that they shouldn’t be exposed to.
“Are they abusing that child? Absolutely they are.”