Pubdate: Sat, 17 Aug 2002
Source: Eastern Daily Press (UK)
Copyright: 2002, Archant Regional
Author: Richard Batson


Cromer has had a "drugs capital" tag casting a shadow over its popular role
as Gem of the Norfolk coast.

While it remains a tourist magnet known for its crabs, historic seafront and
lively carnival, the town also has to live with the problems, and spin-off
crime, caused by a sub-culture of drug-users and dealers.

Police and social workers admit there is a problem and fear it could get

And North Norfolk MP Norman Lamb is leading moves for a conference on the

"We need to know how serious this is at Cromer and see what steps can be
taken to help the situation for the ordinary citizens," he said.

"We often associate drug use with urban areas, but it also exists in rural

One worker dealing with people with drug problems at Cromer is resettlement
officer Ray Freezer, from the Benjamin Foundation charity, who deals with
the young homeless and their associated problems.

She said: "It's real. And the reality is very destructive to the community,
where shopkeepers are having to put up with a lot of abuse and thefts by
people using drugs."

Cromer earlier topped a national league table, for heroin use per head of
population, three years running, but things had improved after dealers moved

But it was still prevalent in certain streets, and there was evidence that
crack cocaine was now spreading from the big cities to rural areas such as
Norfolk. It was a much more addictive drug, and drove users from petty
shoplifting into more violent street crime in an effort to satisfy their

Ms Freezer said some people were lured into the drug world by dealers who
offered accommodation as a favour, then plied them with drugs -- often with
a free sample to start.

"It is an evil loop to get out of, " she added.

But it was also fuelled by a sense of hopelessness among young people who
had few employment hopes and social facilities -- factors which also drove
people to alcohol abuse which was another problem in the area.

A local regeneration partnership was looking at issues such as job,
training, and community facilities -- and Ms Freezer said round-table talks
were a good way to find steps to deal with the drug situation too.
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