Pubdate: Sun, 05 Sep 2004
Source: Observer, The (UK)
Copyright: 2004 The Observer
Author: Tony Thompson, crime correspondent The Observer
Bookmark: (Cocaine)
Bookmark: (Heroin)


Tony Thompson Follows the Trail As the Heroin Barons of Liverpool Find
Rich Pickings in the Bedsits on the South and East Coasts

Like most seaside towns in Britain, Great Yarmouth in Norfolk has a
promenade lined with brightly coloured hotels and pretty souvenir
shops. There is a pier with a video game arcade and topping the bill
at the theatre are Cannon and Ball. And, like an increasing number of
seaside resorts across the country, Great Yarmouth also has a
lucrative drugs market, controlled by gangs from Liverpool.

The latest figures released by Norfolk police show that around a third
of all the dealers in Class A drugs arrested in the area come from
Merseyside. A significant proportion of the remainder have been
recruited by or are being supplied by the Liverpool gangs. The
situation is being repeated across the country with several police
forces setting up operations aimed at specifically targeting the
dealers from the north west.

A recent report published by the Devon & Cornwall police authority and
obtained by The Observer states: 'Liverpool criminals who have
previously controlled the heroin distribution in Devon & Cornwall have
diversified into crack and cocaine. They are now responsible for much
of the Class A drug supply across the force area. This group poses a
major threat to the force as their market places and networks are well
defined and commercially viable.'

Last month, the force made its biggest drug seizure of more than
UKP400,000 worth of heroin. The find, hidden in a rucksack in bushes
close to scrubland, is being linked to five men with Liverpudlian
accents who were seen arguing in the area shortly before. Last week a
further UKP15,000 worth of crack cocaine and heroin was discovered in a
guesthouse in Chelston-Torre. Two teenagers, both from Liverpool, were
arrested during the raid. Gangs from Liverpool are also having a
significant impact on the drug trade in Plymouth and many other
coastal towns in the south and east of Britain.

Det Sgt Nick Wilden of Devon & Cornwall police told The Observer : 'We
do not have a problem with dealers from London or Bristol. The trade
is effectively controlled by those from Liverpool. It's extremely well
organised with a chain of command that goes direct from Liverpool
through a number of levels down to the people selling on the street.
The dealers will often base themselves in guest houses and store the
drugs elsewhere.

'They make regular runs to Liverpool to obtain new supplies which are
either brought down in a series of vehicles or by train. The dealers
at the lower end tend to be addicts but those at the top are rarely on
heroin. This is a business, one which they can make a great deal of
money from, and they tend to treat it that way.'

Liverpool has always been a major importation and distribution point
for drugs arriving in the UK and gangs from the city have long
controlled the supply across Merseyside as well as seaside towns in
north Wales. They have also traditionally had strong links to gangs in

Earlier this year James O'Hara from Liverpool was jailed for leading a
23-strong gang of heroin and cocaine dealers in Great Yarmouth.
O'Hara's gang is believed to have carried out more than 7,000 drug
deals before being brought down by a six-month undercover police
operation. The ringleaders of the gang were all from Liverpool but
several low-level dealers had been recruited direct from the streets
of Norfolk.

Last month officers from Norfolk swooped on yet more members of a
Liverpool-based drugs gang as they made a delivery at a supermarket
car park on the outskirts of Lowestoft. DCI Barry Lister, head of
Norfolk police's drugs and serious crime squad, told The Observer :
'The gangs first came to our attention last year. We are now liaising
with Merseyside police and are involved in a sustained targeting of
drug dealers from Liverpool. Previously dealers from Norfolk would
have travelled to London or Liverpool to obtain supplies. This would
be brought back and then broken up into street-sized deals.
Increasingly, the drugs are being pre-packaged in Liverpool and
brought to Norfolk ready to be sold on the street right away. This is
big business. In one recent surveillance operation we observed a
single dealer selling to more than 100 customers in a few hours.'

Seaside towns, particularly those where large numbers of homes have
been split up into smaller flats and bedsits, have always been popular
with drug addicts. By providing this supply more directly the
Liverpool gangs have been able to increase the amount of drugs
available and also exert a far greater level of control over their

The problem is particularly acute during the summer and autumn when
large numbers of dealers are able to blend in with the tourists
without drawing attention to themselves because of their distinctive
accents. In recent months dealers from Liverpool have been arrested in
towns in Sussex, Suffolk and Dorset.

The increased focus on areas outside Liverpool is also believed to be
in part a response to a year-long crackdown in the city by Merseyside
police which has massively disrupted dealing in key areas. Last week,
officers charged a number of people in connection with two gangland
murders thought to be linked to a long-running drugs gang war. They
also charged a 22-year-old in connection with a series of car bombings
in the city over the past year. The crackdown has led to almost 400
arrests in the past three months, most of them for drugs offences. 
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