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Community fights back against the street drug dealers
Young and impressionable, they can easily be enticed by the flash cars passing along their streets.
But these aren’t the wheels of law abiding, hard working members of our society. They are dealers who infiltrate areas where the vulnerable can easily have their heads turned in a community which, on the face of it, may offer no alternative hope.
West Bowling isn’t alone in its issues with drugs but attentions have been turned there following the jailing of Class A drug dealers who were brought to justice under Operation Stalebank as part of a crack down targeting dealers in that area.
Since Friday, 15 men have been jailed for more than 46 years leading to the warning from the city’s Senior Judge, The Recorder of Bradford, Judge Roger Thomas QC, that street dealing in heroin and crack cocaine was so commonplace in parts of Bradford it was almost considered the “social norm.”
The sentencing of those who ply their illegal trade within our communities shows the city’s stance against drugs and sends out a clear message that drug dealing will not be tolerated on our streets.
Frustrations are felt deep within this community that drug dealing goes on but the most important thing is the children here and protecting them is paramount.
Residents recognise they are the future and along with the many organisations working around here, they are striving to ensure these youngsters get the best opportunities in life.
They want them to follow their aspirations; to afford the fancy cars they admire on their streets but through hard work and determination and not a quick-fix solution.
Of course, there are those who want to move out. Stewart Wallis, 34, has lived in West Bowling since 2004. It isn’t a place he would bring up children – others will share his views but one 24-year-old pushing a youngster in a pram told how she felt safer here than any other area of Bradford.
Mohammed Afsar, a former president of East Bowling Mosque, who runs a property management company, says: “It isn’t nice to have this sort of thing in this area and it should be looked into.”
But the 57-year-old, who has lived in West Bowling for 15 years, says the area still has its community at heart.
Community worker, Stephen Woodrow, says the youngsters see the expensive cars and aspire to have what the dealers have. This often leads to their involvement.
Conscious of this, Stephen and his colleagues at St Stephen’s Church are working towards creating positive aspirations for the young people around here.
Chatting with Stephen and Sarah Hinton, the wife of the Rev Jimmy Hinton, vicar of St Stephen’s, it is evident there is plenty to be positive about.
The ‘No Drugs in BD5’ project is a case in point. The initiative grew out of a community campaign involving the Police, community wardens, local primary schools and faith organisations to stamp out drug dealing on the area’s streets which Sarah says has become more ‘blatant.’ “I think it is blatant and it is in front of children and that is what I don’t like,” she says.
Sarah says the campaign, which involved bin stickers being handed out around the local community, has made a significant difference within the area as people are encouraged to share information in complete anonymity with Crimestoppers. “For the sake of the children around here let’s do this, it has made a big difference,” says Sarah.
Since arriving here eight years ago, Sarah recognises West Bowling has its issues but she is heartened by a community that, on the whole, cares. “It is a lovely community to be in and there are so many lovely people who care for us around here. I think it is a great place. There are some issues that need dealing with but it’s a great place to live and there are lots of positive things happening as well.”
Newby Primary is one of the organisations integral to the No Drugs in BD5 campaign. Headteacher, Janice Stephenson, explains her predecessor was initially instrumental in the initiative.
Janice says the idea was to get various facets of the community together to say they weren’t going to tolerate it. “It is trying to empower the community and to say you don’t have to put up with this. Don’t be afraid, ring Crimestoppers,” says Janice.
Deputy headteacher, Claire Thompson adds: “Our children are more aspirational than ever before. They want to go to University and it is about giving them the best chance in life.”
West Bowling Labour councillor, Sher Khan, says Judge Thomas’s comments were ‘100 per cent right’ but the drugs ‘disease’ was rife countrywide not just in West Bowling and the rest of the city.
He said: “It’s a disease that’s killing off communities. Drugs devastate whole families and we can’t allow it to continue to harm us.
“People guilty of street dealing should be locked up longer, everything they own should be taken away from them and when they get freed they should be named and shamed again and made to clean the very streets they poisoned.
“We are working hard in West Bowling to run the dealers out for good. We don’t want them here or anywhere else, that’s why we have a campaign called No Drugs in BD5 working with the police, schools, community groups, residents and mosques to take control from the ground. We tell everyone don’t be scared to tell the police if you have information, you don’t have to give your name, just give what you know.
“It is working, the recent crown court sentences are proof and have given people even more confidence to go to the police.”