Newspaper article Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)

Taking on the Dealers; the Battle to Take Drugs off the Streets Drugs the Real Story

Newspaper article Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)

Taking on the Dealers; the Battle to Take Drugs off the Streets Drugs the Real Story

Article excerpt


THE drug squad in Middlesbrough tackles the hub of the narcotics trade on Teesside.

The squad's targets are the crack and heroin dealers whose greed and lawlessness destroys lives. SIMON HAWORTH speaks to Detective Inspector Mel Ashley about life taking on the dealers.

IT was one moment that sums up the reason why Detective Inspector Mel Ashley does his job.

Crack cocaine dealer Reginald "Shaggy" Johnson had just been arrested.

The drugs squad had been working to bring him to justice for five years and now knew he was going to prison for a long time.

After Johnson was led to the police van in handcuffs a neighbour came out to talk to the police.

"This lady was in her 60s and she was just in tears," said DI Ashley.

"She said 'I am so, so pleased you have come round to do this. They have made my life a misery'."

It was one moment on a day of raids that gave an insight into the heartache drugs cause communities on the streets of Teesside.

From the anti-social nuisance addicts cause to residents who live near dealers, to the violence inflicted as a consequence of dealer rivalry, to the exploitation of addicts who can, and often do, end up dead as a result of their addiction.

"I don't come from Middlesbrough," said DI Ashley, "but what happens in relation to drugs affects everyone around here because Middlesbrough is seen as a hub.

"I know what we do makes a difference."

Each district in Cleveland Police - Middlesbrough, Stockton, Redcar and Cleveland and Hartlepool - has a dedicated drugs unit, made up of professional drug investigators and financial investigators who trace the route of profits from drugs.

The Middlesbrough unit takes action against dealers on a daily basis, which can include raids and complex operations to gain evidence on dealers.

DI Ashley said it could take days for information to lead to an arrest, it could also take months or even years.

He stressed that the public must not lose faith with the police if they feel information they have given about dealers has not been immediately acted upon.

"The problem we have sometimes is the public will pass on information and think we will immediately act upon it - and on some occasions we are able to act upon it very quickly - but it may be part of a large investigation we are working on," he said.

"We still revolve around dealer a day, we will do a minimum of 365 actions a year."

Operations can be focused on stifling rising trends in the drugs world.

One potential trend, which Cleveland Police was determined to snuff out before it developed into a major problem, was crack cocaine-dealing yardies and associated gun crime.

"With the Afro-Carribean supply of crack cocaine we needed to react very positively and not allow it to gain a foothold," said DI Ashley. …

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