People who take cocaine on a night out in Hastings are encouraging violence and exploitation, the town’s new police chief has said.
New district commander Chief Inspector Sarah Godley, who took up her role as district commander for Hastings and Rother in November last year, has said people who take the party drug cocaine seem to think it is ‘socially acceptable’.
Speaking exclusively to the Observer, Ch Insp Godley said: “The problem with Hastings and county lines is that we have got the demand for the drugs.
“The whole time we’ve got a demand for the drugs, we’ve got the county lines coming in to match that demand.”
Threat of ruthless county lines drug dealing to Hastings and Rother
County lines is a growing drug dealing tactic in which criminals from big cities move down to coastal towns and take over the homes of vulnerable people.
The term ‘county lines’ stems from the use of a dedicated telephone line used to take orders for drugs.
Asked about the extent of county lines crime in our area, she said that there were a small number of lines in operation but that police were aware of them.
“There is some rivalry [among different drugs gangs]. That’s where some of the violence does come from.”
Chief Inspector: I can't stand that cocaine is now 'socially acceptable'
She said one of her frustrations is how cocaine is viewed by many as just another part of a night out.
“It’s almost become socially acceptable on a night out now.
“What people aren’t realising is that then they see violence out on the street or they hear about county lines and cuckooing – if they weren’t doing cocaine on a Friday and Saturday night our demand would go down.
“So that’s the big thing that I am picking up on. It’s a difficult thing to market because we need to make something that’s socially acceptable into something socially unacceptable when people like the good side of it.”
250 wraps of cocaine found at pub
As part of her commitment to cracking down on cocaine use in Hastings and the surrounding area, Ch Insp Godley said her officers had carried out drug sweeps in all pubs in the town.
She said: “We did drug testing in all of them and far too many had cocaine in them when we did the swabs of the toilets, some of them quite significant.
“We’ve got lots of tools for them to lose their license, if they’re not running their premises as they should do.”
Ch Insp Godley said increased police activity and awareness among the public is already having an impact, and helped contribute to a big Class A drug seizure.
“In one of those operations we got 250 wraps of cocaine.
“Someone had gone into the pub, put a rucksack behind the bar said ‘Can you just quickly look after this for me?’.
“Because of our presence and what we are doing, the bar staff are more aware and reported it.
“We went in and there were 250 wraps of cocaine in it. Then we traced who it was who had them and he had further wraps on him actually inside the premises as well.”
Public encouraged to report anything suspicious to police
Ch Insp Godley stressed how important it is that members of the public report anything odd they see to police, even if they think it might be nothing.
She gave the example of taxi drivers who take the same people to the same few addresses on multiple days, and of hotel staff who see children coming in with different adults and not staying the night.
“Or neighbours that live next door to a vulnerable person and there’s people coming and going that don’t seem quite right, or the occupant is being quite quiet and withdrawn and not acting as they usually do,” she added.
She said that when she joined in November she was struck by the need to improve engagement between the public and police in terms of reporting suspicions.
“For me the key thing is the trust and confidence and getting the engagement right.
“As I came in there was a lot of people saying, ‘Oh we don’t see police in this area’ or we haven’t done that.
“And then when we do go out and say what’s going on here and they tell us they haven’t reported anything.”
She says that police are now more targeted in their approach to fighting crime than ever, so it’s really important that people let them know what is going on.
Praise for predecessor Chief Inspector Steve Curry
Ch Insp Godley also paid tribute to her predecessor as Hastings and Rother district commander, Chief Inspector Steve Curry.
She said: “Steve Curry did a brilliant job.
“We’re really different, and we go about things in different ways, so it was important for me not undo anything that he’s done, because he has done so, so well and paved the way very nicely for me.”
To report crime contact police on 101 or online, or contact Crimestoppers. In an emergency always call 999.