Northamptonshire was 'easy target' for county lines dealers: How police are getting a grip on the big city pushers

Chief Constable Nick Adderley says he's not putting up with it

By Kate Cronin
Thursday, 18th June 2020, 11:19 am
Chief Constable Nick Adderley. Picture: Copyright David Jackson.
Chief Constable Nick Adderley. Picture: Copyright David Jackson.

"We were an easy target, to be honest, says Chief Constable Nick Adderley.

He's talking about the time a car full of county lines drug dealers came along the motorway to Northamptonshire and, such was the arrogance of the big city criminals, that they stopped on the hard shoulder to let the police catch up with them before speeding away.

It's not been a quiet first two years for Mr Adderley.

In just over 22 months at the helm of Northamptonshire Police he's transformed the structure of the force to prepare for the change to unitary authority, he's been involved in a merger of the county's police and fire services, has had to deal with the tragic international fallout from Harry Dunn's death and has attracted national publicity for his approach to tasers and accusations of 'policing shopping trolleys' during the coronavirus pandemic.

His no-nonsense omnipresence on Twitter is part of his drive to 'demystify policing.'

"It's not a dark art, and we want to show people the normal side of it," he says.

Now, in an exclusive two-part interview, father-of-two Mr Adderley has spoken to his local paper on some of the biggest issues facing our police force in 2020, including tackling county lines and increasing the representation of black, Asian and minority ethinc police officers.

Although the force now has a tentative handle on county lines, it's been a hard slog to reclaim the roads from those insistent on peddling their drugs in Northamptonshire.

"When I arrived county lines were hidden in plain sight," says Mr Adderley. "We were seen as an easy target to be honest.

"We didn't have the right attitude or the right equipment and we didn't have the number of officers. It was a county force dealing with a metropolitan issue.

"One of my clear focuses was on getting the right kit and starting to deal with county lines."

It was revealed at the beginning of last year that there were 16 county lines in Kettering alone, plus 28 organised crime gangs.

During 2019, as part of Operations Viper and Redwood, 105 people were arrested and 87 people were charged in connection with Class A drugs offences in Northamptonshire. Officers also confiscated goods worth £25,000.

"I wanted to stem the flow of drugs into the county," says Mr Adderley. He has been guided by his experience as commander of the tough North Manchester division, an area that he was raised in, and one that has its own embedded gun and gang culture.

Mr Adderley tells our reporter of a time at the beginning of his tenure in Northamptonshire when the force received information that men in a Volkswagen Golf were bringing drugs into the county. Officers travelling in Northamptonshire Police's ageing fleet of vehicles spotted the car on the motorway.

"Sure enough, it came past and they tried to catch up with it," said former Royal Navy man Mr Adderley.

"And the Golf actually stopped on the hard shoulder and waited for us. It did a few circuits, got bored and just drove off."

"That's why we now have a fleet of high performance vehicles and many more advanced drivers."

ANPR will be key in the fight against drug dealers coming into the county. Although the number-plate recognition cameras are in good numbers on arterial routes, they are badly-lacking in our towns so once dealers arrive in the county, it's often difficult for them to be traced.

"We're investing in ANPR in Corby, Kettering and Northampton so that we can catch them," says Mr Adderley.

"There's only one thing worse than having no intelligence - it's having the intelligence but not being equipped to respond to it."

Thanks to a desperately-needed increase in government funding, the force now has 1,300 officers in its ranks - with a new intake of more than 60 this week - and will have 1,367 by next March and 1,400 the year after. It will be the biggest the force has ever been. In 2018 there were just 1,187 officers in the force, its lowest number for five years.

Mr Adderley has also invested force cash in Police Interceptors, officers using high performance cars and ANPR to trace offenders. There is also a renewed road crime team which is fully stinger-equipped.

"Any suspect vehicle, by this time next year, will be picked-up and stopped from bringing drugs into our county. Like a venus fly trap, we'll close in on them."

In April this year, Mr Adderley appeared to say in a Sky TV interview that the force would consider searching people's shopping trolleys for essential items during the coronavirus pandemic. He later clarified that he hadn't meant that, but not soon enough to be rebuked by Home Secretary Priti Patel who said his comments were 'not appropriate'.

Policing coronavirus has largely been a matter of education in Northamptonshire, with Mr Adderley's force the only one in the country to hold weekly public Facebook Q&A sessions which have attracted thousands of viewers.

But in recent weeks it has tailed off to a trickle.

"With the new rules it has really become an impossible task," he said.

"We've only given out two tickets in the past four or five days.

"As we've always said, it's about engagement and education with the public. This is a public health England crisis that we are trying to support. There are persistent offenders - I think we've got one with seven tickets.You start to think 'there's nothing we can do for you mate.'

TOMORROW: Nick Adderley on why the county's young, black men are targets for organised crime gangs, and what he's doing about it.