Revealed: The rise in Horncastle’s drug crimes

Stock image.
Stock image.

Horncastle is one of only a handful of rural communities in Lincolnshire which has seen a significant increase in the number of drugs crimes during the last six years.

A national investigation - carried out by the BBC and based on police data - shows drugs gangs and dealers are turning their backs on major cities and targeting smaller towns and villages.

The move to find new outlets within easy commuting distance of the gangs’ home cities is sometimes called ‘county lines’.

County lines often involve the use of teenagers to ferry drugs between cities and towns, and to set up drug-dealing operations in the homes of addicts in a process known as “cuckooing”.

There is no suggestion that has happened in Horncastle.

Nationally, figures indicate the number of offences in larger cities has actually dropped in the last six years - including London, the West Midlands and Liverpool.

The figures suggest Lincolnshire is bucking that trend somewhat, as there has been a significant increase in drugs related crimes in Lincoln from 385 reported offences in 2013 to 603 in 2018.

At the same time, the number of offences has dropped in places like Boston, Louth, Mablethorpe and Sutton on Sea.

Horncastle has seen an increase in drugs related crimes from 14 in 2013 to 25 in 2018.

The lowest figure in that period was six offences in 2014.

The 2018 figure is still relatively low in terms of the town’s population (6,815).

However, in Louth - a town with more than double the population of Horncastle - there were 16 offences in 2018 (nine less than Horncastle).

In 2013, there were 44 offences reported in Louth.

There were ten offences in Mablethorpe last year and the same number in Sutton on Sea.

Boston’s figures for last year were 251 offences, compared to 271 in 2013.

In Skegness, there were 186 reported drugs crimes in 2018 - a rise of almost 40 on the previous year.

The figures for Horncastle come just five weeks after several residents attended a town council meeting to raise concerns about drugs crimes.

At the time, divisional inspector Sarah Constantine reassured residents that police were working with other agencies to tackle the problem but had ‘limited resources.’

In a statement following the BBC investigation, Detective Chief Inspector Mark Kirwan said: “Lincolnshire Police are very aware of the harm that illegal drug use can cause to our communities and works hard with partners and other law enforcement agencies on this issue.

“The ‘County Lines’ model can exploit vulnerable and intimidated people which is why we will continue to conduct policing operations that target key offenders and support victims.

“Due to an ongoing focus on key issues such as this, Lincolnshire remains one of the safest places to live in the country.”