The small neighbourhood team making a big impact on the dealers
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With six convictions secured already this year and numerous ongoing operations the proactive team at Stafford is busier than ever.
The unit is part of the Stafford Neighbourhood Policing Team and works closely with neighbourhood officers and partners to target those causing harm to our communities.
Sergeant Tom Fotherby leads the team of three PCs, which is making a big impact in the county town with arrests for supply and possession of drugs, as well as offences including carrying blades and weapons.
“It’s about getting out and about, knowing your patch and knowing faces,” Tom says.
“Of course being about means we get recognised. We sometimes have only a few seconds to act as we’re spotted and, of course, offenders do share info.”
Nathan Bromage, another member of the team, says they are well known and have found images of themselves on seized phones.
“They grab a pic of us and we see messages saying ‘Who’s the new Fed?’
Since 2020 came in, Tom, Nathan, Claire Goodridge and Luke Davies have already secured more than 11 years’ jail time for offenders and have many more court cases pending. In addition to this the team has sought £17,000 in Proceeds of Crime Act (POCA) orders.
“It’s about being inquisitive and observant and making friends and talking to people. We are then able to target the right people and through perseverance we sometimes see those small jobs lead to big ones," Tom says.
"We’ve had jobs where we have targeted the right people and, a couple of bags of cannabis which might not seem a great seizure initially, has through further enquiries and property searches led to £10,000 of cocaine being found.”
The team also recently demonstrated its tenacity in tracking down a Stafford dealer who failed to appear at court and went on the run for four months.
A close working relationship with West Midlands Police’s gang team in Wolverhampton, and gathering of intelligence, led to John Osborne’s arrest in the city’s Heath Town district.
Osborne, formerly of Rising Brook in Stafford, was jailed for five years on 10 January for possession with intent to supply cocaine.
“We track people and we don’t give up,” Tom says. “We follow the supply chain and we put in the graft. We know that those dealing can sadly be quickly replaced so we chase it back and go after their suppliers.”
The team’s recent work has also led to a 45-month jail sentence for Stafford dealer Dean Holland, who was caught by the team with drugs while cycling near Broad Eye.
Further work has led to Steven Dawkins sentenced to 14 months for dealing monkey dust in the town centre. His co-accused Morgan Bailey has pleaded to supplying cannabis and will be sentenced in March.
The list of upcoming jobs for the team makes for a packed spreadsheet. They have operations and court jobs including supplying of steroids, heroin and cocaine dealing, and cannabis production and supply.
There is an operation due for crown court with nine suspects from Stafford, London and Manchester charged with dealing class A drugs in the town.
Another operation involves 13 suspects from the West Midlands charged with dealing drugs in Stafford, Cambridgeshire and Lincolnshire.
An important focus for the team is County Lines. They believe that drugs predominantly come into Stafford from Birmingham and Wolverhampton – the team has charged two 17-year-olds in recently – but the networks are a spider’s web and have involved groups with links to Peterborough and Lincolnshire.
“We work hard to build up networks with other forces and partner agencies as we’ve seen patterns where dealers recruit people and supply across market towns and into areas where you might not expect links,” Tom says.
“An important part of working in County Lines is to understand those that are vulnerable and being exploited. We need to make sure we support those and target the people who control them.”
Chief Inspector Giles Parsons who leads Stafford NPT said “Neighbourhood Policing is about keeping people safe and targeting those who cause most harm and this small team makes a huge impact as we have seen from the great results.”