The drug-ravaged town where dealers hide cannabis among crisps on shelves as they set up FAKE shops to run empires | The Sun

SITTING on a low shelf in a Gloucestershire shop, a seemingly innocent box of crisps hid a sinister stash.

Buried under the packets of Space Raiders were bags of cannabis- which could easily have been grabbed by children in search of a tasty snack.

Thankfully, on this occasion, it was cops who found the bags, hidden by drug dealers in Tredworth, Gloucestershire – after a tip off from disgruntled locals.

The shocking discovery lifted the lid on the sinister criminal networks that have blighted the area, which has one of the highest crime rates in Gloucestershire.

According to the police, a staggering 131 violent and sexual offences were reported in October alone. A further 35 anti-social behaviour offences, 20 criminal damage and arson offences and 19 public order offences were also recorded for the month.

The shop, in Barton Street, was among several that were raided by police as part of a planned operation, in March, and given closure orders.

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Officers seized £3,500 of Class A drugs, £2,500 of Class B drugs and £30,000 of illegal tobacco and made two arrests.

Insp Marcus Forbes-George, who led the operation, said: “The stock and the set-up within the stores would indicate it is a front for drug dealing activity,” he said.

He added: “There's no place for drug dealing in Gloucestershire and we'll continue to target any known drug dealer.”

A few months later, in September, three crooks who had been flooding the area with hundreds of thousands of pounds of cocaine were jailed for a total of almost 20 years.

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Ringleader Mizanur Rahman, 31, was jailed for 11 years and two months at Gloucester Crown Court. His accomplices, Harvey Crofts, 20, and Patrick Nikiel, 20, were sentenced to five years and two years respectively for their part in the conspiracy to supply heroin and cocaine.

The court was told it was estimated that in excess of 2.5 kilos of class A drugs had been supplied.

Judge Ian Lawrie KC described Rahman as the “puppet master” who took advantage of the naivety and youth of his co-defendants, who were novices to crime.

The same month, a 16-year-old boy was left with head injuries after he was attacked in Tredworth.

Four people were arrested over the assault in Sybil Road in the early hours after “a fracas” broke out on the street involving numerous people.

Drug-fueled thefts

The busts are welcomed by fed up locals, who tell The Sun their hometown is being turned into a lawless wild west.

But local businesses says they are still suffering at the hands of crooks who shoplift, attack residents and scream abuse.

Sharon Wallis, the manager of the One Stop shop, in Tredworth claims she is always on the lookout for thieves.

“In the five months I've been here in charge, the main problem we have had is shoplifting,” Sharon, 56, said.

“Some of the shoplifters are young kids, others are older ones and adults, but whoever it is, it is just so disappointing.

“I put the main reason down to the fact that there is a lot of poverty in the area.

“Of course the other motivation for the thefts is that the stolen goods are often sold on to get money to buy drugs.

“I think drugs drive a lot of crime and I suppose that here is the same as many other big towns, but it's depressing to see it take so many people.

“We sometimes get abused here too by their customers and that’s never nice to deal with."

Brutal attack

Elsewhere, on the bustling high street, we caught up with NHS worker Lisa, 40, as she withdrew cash from an ATM machine.

She said: “I have lived round here all my life and I'm proud to say I work for the NHS preparing meals for patients.

“But this area has always been known for crime.

“A few years back my mum was mugged after she's been to the local pub, The Plough.

“When she left the pub, she didn’t realise she'd been followed and then he pounced on her just a few yards from her door.

“She was badly bruised and ended up with a black eye.

“They never found out who did it.”

More recently, Lisa herself was attacked in the town, leaving her injured and in need of psychological trauma therapy. 

She said: ”I was also assaulted, I told the police and the guy was eventually taken to court and had to pay just over a £100 compensation.

“But that was nothing considering it left me with physiological problems and I had to take three months off work.

“I value my job in the NHS, I feel I am doing something useful but I had to have time off to recover from the incident.”

Driven away by violence

Finance officer Marta Rozynska, 37, who lives in a side road off the high street with her partner and three young children, said: “It's a bad area around here. There was a stabbing here only last week.

“It's very frightening and getting worse, so me and my partner have decided we want to move somewhere else in the new year.

“After experiencing all this, we want to move away to somewhere where it's safe for the kids and we can get them into better schools.

“We might look for somewhere in the country – perhaps in Wales where prices are much more reasonable.

“We are fortunate never to have faced any real trouble ourselves. But this place is not the right environment to bring up kids. Goodness knows what would become of them if we stayed here.

Only go out in daylight

Eve, 29, and Anthony, 25, who have a two-year-old son, said they feel safe in Tredworth – but only during the day.

Eve said: ”We live around a 10-minute walk away from high street and we come here for the shops and the Post Office. We’re here today to put some  Christmas cards in the post.

“We don't find it too bad, although we are aware the area has a bad reputation, which is why we always come here in daylight.

“It's a shame that there is so much crime about. It leaves you feeling that nowhere is safe anymore.

“There should be a much higher police presence here because that might just put off people being anti-social, thieving and drug dealing.

“We shouldn't have to be looking over our shoulder when we go out to the shops.”

But Dougie, 38, who runs Doug’s cafe in the high street, expressed surprise on being told how high the crime rate was in the area.

He said: “I've been here a long time and I don't believe it's that bad.

“I'm surprised to see these figures, but I have to say I feel safe here. Nonetheless, I’ll be keeping my eyes open from now on.”

The county’s Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) Chris Nelson, whose job it is to hold the county's police to account, praised the dedication of cops with the raids earlier this year.

“It's what the public want to see,” he said.

“They're fed up with illegal drugs in their communities and the people of Tredworth don't want this.

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“They've given the police intelligence and we're now acting on that intelligence.”

Gloucestershire County Council declined to comment.

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