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


Norfolk's traditional image as a sleepy county with old-fashioned values and
low crime is at odds with an EDP survey of readers' perceptions.

The results show that people believe parts of Norfolk to have a drugs
problem on a par with big cities such as London, Birmingham and Manchester.

In addition, those surveyed paint a depressing picture of youth crime and
vandalism, fuelled by alcohol and exacerbated by a breakdown of families and
parental responsibility.

There is a strong belief that the justice system is not working and needs an

The survey on youth and street crime, commissioned by the EDP in June, was
carried out through a series of discussion groups -- representing a
cross-section of readers -- at Archant's Insight Viewing research facility
in Norwich.

The fears about drugs, especially crack cocaine, back up a report to Norfolk
Police Authority this year which pointed to a huge increase in seizures of
the purified and highly-addictive form of cocaine.

Norwich and Yarmouth were highlighted as drug hotspots by those surveyed,
with fears expressed that Norwich "has a crack cocaine problem that is
causing a crimewave".

Drugs are blamed for "a lot of property crime and a lot of violent crime --
it's a big problem".

The easy availability of drugs is emphasised with city nightclubs
highlighted as "the prime places for drugs".

And there is a strong belief that the drug problem is compounded by a lack
of appropriate rehabilitation facilities.

Det Chief Insp Steve Fernandes, head of Norfolk's drugs and serious crimes
unit, said perceptions in the survey were broadly based on reality.

"We have experienced a problem with crack cocaine for the first time this
year," he said.

"And the worrying trend is linked to acquisition crime and violent crime,
predominantly in Norwich but reaching out to other urban areas such as
Yarmouth and King's Lynn and even into rural areas."

He said the increasing use of crack cocaine was a national problem, but
Norfolk was still not as badly affected as the big metropolitan areas.

Prof Martin Davies, from the University of East Anglia's School of Social
Work and Psycho-Social Studies, believes that fear of crime is being "hugely
magnified" by the growing influence of the media -- a point also made by
some of those surveyed.

He said: "The story this week of the two missing girls is a good example. It
is rightly being given exhaustive coverage and everyone is reading about

That might explain the intensity of concern even though Norfolk's crime
rates were growing at a lower rate than those in most other parts of the
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