A suspected drugs den was raided yesterday when police used a crackhouse closure order for the first time in Chippenham.
The home in Cowleaze, which is owned by GreenSquare (formerly known as Westlea Housing Association), is believed to have been used for months as a meeting place for drug addicts and dealers.
Police believe that class-A drugs, including heroin, crack cocaine and cocaine, have been sold from the flat, and gangs from outside of Chippenham were starting to use the property as well to deal drugs.
Sector inspector Martin Schorah, PCSOs and officers from Chippenham’s Neighbourhood Policing Team, officers from the Dedicated Crime Team and a representative from GreenSquare launched an 8am raid on the flat.
No one was inside when police forced the door open but kitchen cupboards were filled with new and used syringes and drugs paraphernalia.
A double-decker community bus from Swindon was in Cowleaze during the day to give information and reassurance to concerned residents.
Insp Schorah said it was the first time the order, part of the Anti-Social Behaviour Act 2003, had been used in the town. The order allows the closure of premises used in connection with the production, supply or use of class-A drugs and which is associated with serious problems.
Today, police will present a case to magistrates, which, if successful, will allow them to board up the property for three months.
Even if the case is adjourned the tenant of the property will now be the only person allowed to use the flat, and it will be an offence if anyone else visits the home.
The tenant has been asked to appear in court with a solicitor.
Insp Schorah said: “We had concerns that gangs from Bristol were seeking to use the flat to deal drugs.
“They are preying on vulnerable people in the town and they will look to move into these people’s home to start dealing hard drugs from that address. We have made a number of arrests already at this property, and this was the next step to take. The message to all criminals is that Chippenham is not a soft area to push drugs in – we will not tolerate it.”
The police decided to use the order after an August meeting between officers, the joint commissioning manager for drug and alcohol services, representatives from Wiltshire Council and anti-social behaviour officer Sue Burnett of GreenSquare.
She said: “These orders are not designed up be a fast-track pass for landlords. They are designed to get very swift respite to communities who have often had to put up with terrible and upsetting situations for a long time.”
Insp Schorah said he won’t hesitate to use the order again if necessary. “People can feel that they are untouchable. They might go to prison for a while, but then they can come back to their nice flats. We want to remove this safety net,” he said.