Hastings, known for its rampant drug issues. Heroin being the worst offender as the small East Sussex town had the third most heroin deaths in the country between 2014 and 2016 despite only being the 106th most populous settlement in England, according to the Office of National statistics. This town wide epidemic, has created a serious issue with metropolitan gangs from using the seaside town as ‘country lines’.
East Sussex police officer, PC Dan Smith explained to me that country lines are inner city gangs attempting to expand their illegal enterprises using conventional business methods. He also detailed the difficulties police officers face with public perception, most especially in the media. He said that the Police are often negatively confronted due to preconception that citizens have; that they’re always there to punish. However, he says it quite the opposite; that they often attempt to assist before reprimanding those with serious addictions and who are causing multiple offences to upkeep their dangerous vice. He stated to me that prejudices that people have to officer, stop from helping as effectively as they could. “I can’t help you if you make the choice not to engage with me.”
PC Smith also linked the rise in drug misuse, with the rise in knife related offences. “Drugs and knives, they go hand in hand.”
While incidents of stabbings have always been a growing concern in the sprawling metropolis of London, the recent reports from doctors across country have shown knife related injuries are spreading into rural areas. Just two months ago a man was left critically ill after being stabbed on Trinity Street in Hastings Town Centre. In St. Leonard’s two teenagers, one 16, and one 18 were arrested the same month for stabbing to death 16-year-old Conner Ansell. “It’s often young men working for gangs; having them transport drugs for them.”
Yet PC Smith also informed me that a large amount of knife crimes is not only gang related issues but also due to those suffering from mental health. He said that a lot of the people they deal with (Hastings police) have issues with mental health, “If they have mental health, then negotiators come in and they can talk from down from using a knife.”
From my interview with PC Dan Smith, Hastings Police appear to be doing the best they can to tackle the drug and knife matters in the town