Following the conviction of a nine drug dealers last week, Westmorland Gazette reporter ANDY EDGEWORTH took to the streets of Kendal to find out more about the town’s drug problems and the work being done to combat them.
YOUNG people in Kendal can get drugs delivered to their door in 10 minutes.
This is the stark reality of how freely drugs are available in the town, according to students who spoke exclusively to The Westmorland Gazette.
Following the conviction of a gang of nine drug dealers and their associates, which police claimed was behind the supply of almost all the Class A drugs in the Kendal area, Kendal College students claim that drugs are still easily accessible.
Chris Harrison, 23, trainee electrician, said: “People can get pretty much anything they want delivered to their door in 10 minutes.
“Everybody knows where to get it. You don’t get people in the college taking drugs, but everybody knows people who do and how easy it is to get it.
“There is probably a higher percentage of the population using it here than in cities as people are a bit more relaxed about it here.
“It does tend to be people who don’t have anything to do, who aren’t at college who use it, the no hopers, but there is a lot of it out there.”
Another electrician, Jamie Flootitt, 32, moved to the area from Lincolnshire and also said drugs were freely available.
Jamie said: “Drugs are everywhere and we all know people who sell them in Kendal. They drive up and down streets and you know their cars.”
Popular recreational drugs include, speed, ecstasy, cannabis, horse tranquiliser ketamine, and the recently banned mephedrone, which until April was a legal high.
Mephedrone – also known as M-CAT, meow-meow, and bubbles – is now a Class B drug, derived from cathinone, a compound found in a plant called Khat, which is often used as plant fertiliser.
Class B means that there is a maximum penalty of five years in jail and an unlimited fine for possession, and 14 years and unlimited fine for supply.
One 19-year-old drug user, from Kendal, who wished to remain anonymous, told The Westmorland Gazette why he takes drugs, and in particular, M-CAT.
He said: “I get M-CAT from a friend’s flatmate for £10 a gramme, which is about what I would use on an average night out.
“He buys it in bulk online for around £7 a gramme.
“If he didn’t have it I know of many websites which can deliver any amount to your door the very next day.
“I swallow it. It takes effect in around 20 minutes and I would say the high is similar to speed or ecstasy, where you get an energy rush, euphoria, talkative and a loss of inhibition.
“I can struggle to sleep afterwards but I’m usually fine by 6am. The following day I usually feel a little groggy but no worse than a usual hangover.”
The students praised the college and local authorities for their approach to drug education.
Beauty student Chloe Worthington, 17, said: “We often have tutorials about drug awareness which have helped us make informed decisions of our own about the dangers and that is why me and none of my friends use drugs, but we all know people who do.”
Claire Webster, the college’s student support manager, said: “We have over 1,000 full-time students and we try to engage them in drug awareness as much as we can.
“Each pupil has tutorials and we have had a lot of visits from FRANK, Cumbria Alcohol and Drug Advisory Service (CADAS) and the police as well as others and the staff are all trained. It can be a difficult subject but we try to be open and we can refer students on if needed.”
Meanwhile, the director of a leading drugs charity has warned that South Lakeland youngsters are dependent on stimulants to have a good time.
Paul Brown, of Cumbria Alcohol and Drug Advisory Service (CADAS), has warned that recreational drug use is inherent among Kendal’s young people and that despite the jailing of nine drug dealers and their associates last week, drugs will continue to be freely available in Cumbria.
“The police do the best they can, but they are up against a multi-million pound industry which is second only to arms dealing worldwide,” said Mr Brown.
“People have this idea that Cumbria is a sleepy rural backwater, which on the face of it, it is, but drugs are widely used and freely available.
“Many people now use recreational drugs as they use alcohol and need it to have a good time. The young people we see say they are bored and need drugs to have a good night.
“One thing that shows how strong the drug industry is, is the fact that recreational drugs like cocaine are constantly coming down in price, which shows how strong the competition is in the market.”
Cumbria Police have vowed to continue to fight against drugs in the wake of the succesful prosecution of a gang in Kendal.
Following the convictions of nine men earlier this month after the covert police operation ‘Sheffield’, drugs officers have vowed to continue to target dealers in South Lakeland. The men were jailed for a total of 41 years at Carlisle Crown Court.
DC Mark Newsome, of the south area drugs team, said: “The succesful prosecution was just one part of 36 arrests made in that particular operation.
“The operation did severely restrict supply of Class A drugs such as crack cocaine for a couple of months, but we are fighting a constant battle against drugs as they come from so many different sources.
“However, we are determined to continue to investigate any leads, both covertly and overtly by using our stop and search powers and trying to get the public to help with our intelligence by letting the police know where they think drugs are being sold.”
HELP is at hand – this is the message from health chiefs and charities in combating drug use in Kendal and the South Lakes.
The local health authority works with CADAS to support all those affected by drugs.
Keith Murphy, service manager for the Drug and Alcohol Recovery Team (DART) at Cumbria NHS Foundation Trust, believes recent changes to the way the health service approaches drugs has helped people get their lives back on track.
He said: “We try to help people in any way we can by encouraging them to come to us themselves as well as through referrals from their GPs, where appropriate, and the Criminal Justice System.
“We then try to help them on all levels from treatment to getting them into work and back into decent accomodation to help keep them away from that lifestyle.
“We treat people as a whole, not just a prescription.”
July 8th 2010
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