Drugs gangs blighting great Yorkshire towns like Keighley - Robbie Moore MP

We have to take a hard-line approach to those evil members of society who get involved in drug distribution and supply.

However, we also need a twin-track approach, which is what the Government have provided through the plan they announced last year, where we provide support to individuals who get trapped in the system.

In my constituency, there have been many instances of drug crime over the past few months and incidents where the police have got involved.

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Sergeant Dave Purcell, from our local neighbourhood policing team, along with his colleagues, (recently) carried out an early-morning raid and seized cannabis seedlings from an address in the Highfield area of Keighley with an estimated street value of £130,000.

Pic: Simon Hulme.

That is not the first instance where that has happened; in one instance last year, six men from Keighley were arrested and five cars and £10,000 in cash were seized, as well as weapons such as CS spray and knuckledusters.

A staggering 500 wraps of class A drugs were found on those individuals, which they wanted to sell to good people in my constituency who were getting trapped in the system of taking drugs.

Of course, we must also focus on drug distribution. Some local factors exist, some of which are related to geographical area.

Keighley is right on the periphery of West Yorkshire, bordering North Yorkshire, and on the periphery of three different local authorities. We closely border North Yorkshire, Lancashire and Calderdale, meaning that county lines drug gangs are a real challenge for my constituency. Because we border two local police areas, drug gangs can use our geographical position to get away with drug dealing undetected, or are not as easily detected, by the police. In one instance, a county lines gang was found to be using rail network links, using Keighley train station to ferry drugs across the border into Skipton.

Often, the evil leaders of supply operations exploit hapless addicts of class A drugs to ensure they have street runners to sell drugs for huge sums, in return for drugs to feed those addicts’ habits or even for a reduction in their debt for the drugs already supplied to them. Innocent people can be drawn by gangs into these bad habits from a very young age, and have their lives ruined by their involvement in this criminal activity.

Drug dealing links to other crimes: members of these gangs are often the same people who are the perpetrators of gang-related grooming and child sexual exploitation – an issue that has haunted my constituency for far too long, and one that I will continue to talk about. They blackmail their victims by exposing them to this criminal activity of drug dealing.

Violence involving drug gangs has caused disorder and criminal damage in particular areas of Keighley. We have two predominant drug gangs within Keighley, who will openly challenge and take one another on in broad daylight.

That makes people afraid and puts them off coming into Keighley, which is a really good, attractive place. We want to encourage more people to come into Keighley, but we have to address some of these darker, underlying issues. In one tragic case, a man was stabbed to death after challenging a teenage drug dealer to his face about what he was trying to do – selling drugs to a 14-year-old boy.

Urgent action and urgent change are needed for the sake of my town and, I am sure, the constituencies of other Members. We need to talk about this and make sure that when announcements are made at a national level they filter down to our constituents and that our constituents then see real change being delivered at a local level.

Of course, these issues are not just restricted to urban environments; drugs are very much an issue in our rural settings as well. I represent a very urban fringe seat with some really rural parts to it, and I know that drug dealing happens in some of the remotest parts of my constituency as well.

I was pleased to welcome the Home Secretary to Keighley. I had many conversations with her myself, and she met my local neighbourhood policing team to discuss some of the very open challenges we have on the ground. I welcome the work the Government are doing to tackle this issue.

At the end of last year, I was pleased that they unveiled a 10-year plan to clamp down completely on drug crime in our cities, towns and villages, backed by millions of pounds of investment. Of course, that involves a plan to stop the cycle of crime that is driven by addiction, to keep violence out of communities and to save lives by reducing the number of drug-related deaths and homicides.