How well protected is Norfolk’s coast? Not very, say experts
A Home Affairs Select Committee reported last year that there were just three Border Force boats patrolling 7,700 miles of Britain’s coastline at any one time.
Italy, by comparison, had 600 vessels for 4,700 miles of coastline.
The report found Border Force was “clearly under-resourced”, with the number of vessels in operation “worryingly low”.
Since then more boats have been drafted in to mainly target people smugglers looking to get migrants across the Channel.
The North Sea coast, meanwhile, remains open and isolated.
Last summer Dutch police stopped a boat with 26 migrants and a map of Sea Palling onboard.
And former Metropolitan Police special branch officer Chris Hobbs said the coastline was “extremely vulnerable” with little in the way of defences to stop smugglers.
“You are going to find weak spots given the lack of police and border force officers,” he said.
“If you want to move stuff across the North Sea, it is not terrible difficult.
“If you plan what you do well, you have got to be fairly unlucky to be intercepted.”
Last year, Suffolk Police and Crime Commissioner Tim Passmore said the region’s coast was particularly vulnerable to smugglers.
And a National Crime Agency briefing from April that year said: “We know that as well as the main cross-channel ports, criminals are increasingly seeking to target less busy ones – from Tilbury to Purfleet up to Hull on the east coast.”
With little resource to police the long coast line, authorities rely on volunteers and the public to help.
Volunteers from the National Coastwatch Institution (NCI) keep an eye on our coast during the day.
They have five stations in Norfolk at Wells, East Runton, Mundesley, Caister and Gorleston.
Linda Lawrence, station manager at Caister, said they check the beach every morning for anything untoward and alert the coastguard.
The Sea Safety Group also runs five look-out stations along the coast from Sheringham to Pakefield, staffed by volunteers during the day.
In the case of the drugs found on Hopton beach, it was a member of the public who called the police on Thursday afternoon.
Norfolk Police and Crime Commissioner Lorne Green said officers relied on the community to alert them to any dangers.
UKIP county councillor for East Flegg, Jonathan Childs said: “We are lucky this huge amount of drugs has not ended up on our streets.”