Army of teens dealing crack and heroin

DETECTIVES leading the war on drugs in Ipswich are being forced to contend with an army of teenage dealers, it can be revealed today.

DETECTIVES leading the war on drugs in Ipswich are being forced to contend with an army of teenage dealers, it can be revealed today.

The Evening Star has learned that dozens of children, some as young as 15, have been snared by police peddling illegal substances on the town's streets.

Shocking figures show that in the last three years alone, 159 youngsters have been convicted of drugs offences in the county.

Meanwhile, of the 289 arrests made under Operation Academy - a major crackdown on hard drugs in Suffolk - 38 per cent were of dealers aged under 21.

Police claim many engage in dealing as a way of paying off their own drug debts.

The worrying revelation comes days after an Ipswich 15-year-old was convicted of being involved in an operation to shift Class A drugs worth a staggering £7,000.

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Today, the senior detective leading Operation Academy told how the majority of the young Class A dealers caught in Ipswich came from outside the town, predominantly from London.

Detective chief inspector Mark Jepson said: “Of those aged under 21 who have been arrested for dealing, 62pc have travelled to Ipswich to sell Class A drugs.

“There are a small percentage of young people who see drugs as a way of providing themselves with a quick-rich lifestyle.

“However, you could almost class some of these youngsters as victims.

“They may have incurred drug debts through their own use and the only way to pay that debt off is to bring drugs into the town.”

A recent report published by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation found that scores of teens were earning more than £450 a week dealing heroin and crack cocaine.

More than half had grown up in children's homes or with foster parents, while half had been excluded from school before 16 and had left with no qualifications.

Det chf insp Jepson said: “A number will plead guilty at the first opportunity because it gets them out of the system. Otherwise, they could suffer further problems if they return because not only are they still in debt but they don't have the drugs or money.

“It's sad that some young people put themselves in a position where they feel they have no option, although if it's pure greed, I don't have any sympathy because they know the risks.”

Last week, Kirsha Dyer, 20, the younger sister of footballer Kieron, was jailed for nearly six years for conspiring with others to supply crack cocaine. She was just 19 at the time of the offence.

Suffolk police recently reported an overall drop in crime, and in Ipswich there have been 400 less offences. However, drug crime is the only major category to see an increase in the county - up 5.8pc.

Chief constable Simon Ash claims this is down to a more pro-active stance.

“We have been targeting that area and, by doing that successfully, catching people and that reflects in the rise of 5.8pc,” he said.

“The message is people should not come to Suffolk thinking they can supply drugs without being caught.”

Has your child fallen victim to drugs? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or e-mail eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk

Case Study

AN Ipswich teenager has admitted possessing and intending to supply Class A drugs with a street value of nearly £7,000.

The 15-year-old, who cannot be named for legal reasons, escaped with a 12-month supervision order and was also tagged for six months.

Ipswich Crown Court heard how a police raid in south Ipswich found the teenager at a friend's flat where they discovered 10.37 grams of crack cocaine and 59.61 grams of heroin.

Ian Pells, for the prosecution, said the cocaine wraps had a street value of £1,000 and the heroin had a value of £5,900.

The teen pleaded guilty to the offences but claimed it was his first day of involvement in the illegal operation.

Judge John Holt, sentencing the boy, said: “You have pleaded guilty to extremely serious offences.

“If you were an adult, as mentioned to your counsel, the Court of Appeal guidelines start at five years' (imprisonment).”

He added: “You have got a chance. You had better take it.”

David Pickersgill, mitigating, said: “He is quite clearly very shocked and regretful he got involved in this.”

Operation Academy arrests - June 07 to June 08.

Total arrests - 289

Ipswich-based men over 21 - 101

Outside-Ipswich men over 21 - 44

Ipswich-based women over 21 - 32

Outside-Ipswich women over 21 - 3

Total: 180

Ipswich-based males under 21 - 30

Outside-Ipswich males under 21 - 58

Ipswich-based females under 21 - 10

Outside-Ipswich females under 21 - 11

Total: 109

Cases in which youths were prosecuted where drug crimes were the principle offence:

2005/06 - 55

2006/07 - 61

2007/08 - 43

(Source: CPS)