More than 2,000 drugs arrests in Norfolk, Suffolk and Cambridgeshire

More than 2,000 drugs arrest were made across East Anglia last year, new figures have revealed, as police warn substance abuse fuels crime at all levels of society.

Figures released under the Freedom of Information Act show there were 1,073 arrests - including 256 for drug dealing - in Norfolk last year. Offences range from possession of cannabis to drug production and dealing class A substances.

In Suffolk 596 arrests were made and in Cambridgeshire officers made 585 arrests.

Over the same period 19 drug factories have been shut down in Norfolk and 37 in Suffolk. Criminals assets worth well over �1m have been seized through the courts.

Det Supt Nick Dean, from Norfolk police CID, said arrest levels in the county demonstrated the force's zero tolerance approach to drug crime.

He added: 'Whether it's street dealing or serious organised gangs, drug crime has a detrimental affect on the users but also the wider community.

'We need to send out a message that these offences will not be tolerated in Norfolk and we will work hard to make sure our communities are not exploited by criminal gangs.'

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The most recent British Crime Survey shows drug offences were down 18pc nationally but these new figures show the scale of the problem that exists in the region.

In Norfolk drug offences have risen steadily over the last three years, from 923 offences in 2008. There has been a similar increase in Cambridgeshire and a slight drop in Suffolk.

The most common offence in Norfolk was possession of cannabis but there were also 105 arrests for possession of heroin and 48 for possession of cocaine.

Mr Dean said that a number of high profile operations had sent out a message to drugs gangs that the county was not a soft touch.

But he said there was no room for complacency, adding that officers must remain alert to the threat of new gangs moving in to exploit the territory left by those taken off the streets.

His comments come after a series of high profile prosecutions, including a gang from London which turned over about �20,000 a week selling crack cocaine and heroin on the county's streets through a network of small-scale dealers.

The gang of eight - who used the Norwich landmark of Cow Tower as an unofficial 'drugs kiosk' - were jailed for a total of more than 40 years after being caught selling drugs to an undercover police officer.

Three men, described as 'foot soldiers' in another London-based gang, were jailed for a total of nine-and-a-half years after being caught smuggling crack cocaine into Norfolk.

And another 'highly organised' drugs gang responsible for bringing thousands of pounds worth of cocaine into Norfolk are currently serving sentences totalling more than 17 years.

The gang, who dealt cocaine in Great Yarmouth, Gorleston and Caister areas, were led by Robert Munday, 30, from Cheshire who acted as a wholesaler responsible for the supply of drugs estimated to be worth more than �1m per year.

His arrest was part of a crack down aimed at disrupting the drugs trade, making it difficult for gangs from outside of the county to set up in the area.

Det Supt Dean said: 'Whether its officers making street level arrests for more minor offences such as possession, to larger covert operations, we are determined to target every level of the drugs trades.

'The lower level arrests are important as we are targeting the demand that organised gangs prey upon and because it can lead to intelligence which helps us target those further up the chain.

'The number of drug offences in Norfolk has remained relatively steady over the last decade. The nature of the problem is such that gangs operate as professional businesses and, once one gang is removed, another will look to move in on an area and exploit any gaps.

'We are alive to the threat of people coming in from London and other metropolitan areas and recent operations have shown that such activity will not be tolerated.

'That's what the community would expect and from street level offences to major operations, we adopt a pro-active stance so gangs should know exactly what they're going to get when they come to Norfolk.'

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