Wyre Forest Police Inspector David King's new monthly Shuttle column...

"So a year in now as your district policing inspector for the Wyre Forest... As I reflect back over that time, from the flooding in Bewdley to Covid-19, mixed in with all the day to day challenges that face our three towns and our villages, I can honestly say that it has been tough for everyone.

"It is clear from speaking to people across the district that the last few months in particular have been the toughest. Everyone has felt the impact of the lockdown period and the restrictions placed upon us.

"While the Government is lifting restrictions bit by bit in a bid to revive the national economy, we are all still feeling the effects of the virus on our day to day lives. But as the measures are lifted, we must be guarded that if cases rise, as we’ve seen in the North West, then we risk those restrictions being placed back on us.

"As a father myself, I’ve been genuinely concerned for my children. Like all young adults, they’ve felt the strain from being away from friends and extended family.

"Covid-19 has impacted us all in different ways and for children, the mental health implications are far reaching.

"As children across our district return to school with new measures in place, it is important that we recognise it is an anxious time for them, in particular teenagers.

"Feelings of stress and anxiety can trigger a range of emotions and potentially lead to substance and alcohol abuse to manage their feelings. It is for this reason we’re working closely with partner agencies to ensure support services and divisional programmes are available.

"West Mercia Police is committed to tackling the issue of drug misuse. The drugs business is a major revenue source for organised crime gangs, such as County Lines.

"Many of these gangs are involved in other criminal activity such as human trafficking, sexual exploitation, firearms and labour exploitation.

"County Lines are drug networks that operate across local authority boundaries by urban gangs whose origin is urban city locations. These gangs establish a market in a rural town to supply drugs. They will utilise a mobile phone number to facilitate drugs orders to supply within our county towns and more often than not, exploit young people and children to facilitate their business.

"Targeting serious organised crime forms part of our force’s control strategy. We have a Vulnerability Team and County Lines Team dedicated to investigating such crime and just as importantly, safeguards victims and vulnerable people.

"My team work alongside these teams to proactively target drug use in the Wyre Forest. In the last five weeks, we’ve had eight arrests in four separate policing operations where we’ve recovered 120 wraps of suspected heroin and cocaine and a quantity of cash.

"Working with partner agencies and the district council, we will continue to target individuals and send a clear message that drugs won’t be tolerated in our district.

"We all have a part to play in the fight against drug misuse and I encourage residents to report such criminality.

"My officers will be going into our schools to educate our children of the consequences of drug misuse, how to identify children being exploited and how to report concerns (whether to the police or anonymously to Crimestoppers). Until next time, keep safe."