CLAIMS a “county lines drug gang” is operating out of a suburban house and dealing to children have sparked a pledge to ramp up patrols.

An Ingleby Barwick resident, who wished to remain anonymous, told Wednesday’s town council meeting he believed a criminal gang had been operating out of an estate house for seven weeks.

The man said: “I’ve followed them and they’ve been dealing in Romano Park to children – they’ve been dealing in the street from 4pm every hour, and they’ve been dealing at night in the cuts.

“They’ve been driving fast cars in and out – the police know and in seven weeks nothing has been done.”

Cllr Ted Strike, ward member in Ingleby Barwick East, said he’d contacted police about the trouble – adding he’d given information on car makes, colours and number plate registration numbers to the force.

‘Something needs to be done’

Meanwhile, the man told councillors “about 40 different cars” had gone into the address and he later added there were “usually four to 10 Asian men in the house at any one time”.

He added: “I’ve told the enforcement about drug dealing in the park – my daughter is 12 and she’s told me 12-year-old kids are coming from Thornaby to provide drugs in Romano Park.

“When we first moved in there were 13-year-old boys going in there (the property).

“Someone is going to get hurt soon – something needs to get done.”

The man also told the committee he’d seen taxis at the address.

He added: “They use their favourite and they give them £40 – the taxis turn up and wait outside St Francis School (St Francis of Assisi Primary School) for 20 minutes.”

Simply defined, “county lines” is a phenomenon where people are taken from one area to another for the purpose of committing a crime – which mainly involve illegal drugs.

Children are particularly vulnerable.

Cllr Strike urged the town council to send off a letter to Police and Crime Commissioner Barry Coppinger and new Chief Constable Richard Lewis with their drug concerns.

He added: “I think this is absolutely appalling and we need to nip this in the bud.”

‘You can smell it’ 

Cllr Kevin Faulks said IBIS (Ingleby Barwick Independent Society) colleague and ex-copper Cllr Ken Dixon had kept tabs on drug problems in the west ward.

“Drug dealing has been a serious matter for a long time,” he added.

“The litter group has picked up bags for a long time – we know there’s been a big problem.

“You can smell it around Tesco.

“I cannot sit here and not defend the police and law when they’ve had their numbers cut by 500 since 2010 – that isn’t going to help.

“But yesterday, I got from abuse from two kids who dropped their litter straight down – it’s completely out of control.

“We’re all genuine people sat here and we don’t want to see this going on. We need to get on to Barry and ask the new Chief Constable to come along.”

Recorded crime increased by 83% in Stockton South between 2011/12 and 2018/19, according to House of Commons Library data.

Mr Coppinger is due to attend the parish meeting on May 29.

Cllr Strike told council colleague he’d seen a lot of “drug action” at the woods towards the bottom end of Romano Park.

“During the election I had several complaints from certain people – taxis will come and park up and guys will go out and come back,” he added.

“We’re never going to stop drug abuse – the whole of the country has got that problem but what we’ve got to do is cut out as much as we can.”

Police response

Stockton’s neighbourhood Chief Inspector Marc Anderson said there were designated PCSOs assigned to the area – particularly around Romano Park and Tesco as part of “Operation Impact”.

Chief Insp Anderson added: “PCSOs patrol around here on a nightly basis in a bid to tackle anti-social behaviour and other crime related issues.

“Another aim of our PCSOs being assigned to this location is to ensure they are communicating with local residents and businesses in order to offer reassurance so they can understand any issues.

“We have received information regarding possible drug activity in the area and are taking steps to tackle this potential issue, one of which is adding this street onto our list of nightly high visibility patrols for our PCSOs.”

Cleveland Police has asked anyone with further information about drugs activity in the area to contact 101.


The Local Democracy Reporting Service contacted a number of Teesside taxi firms about the concerns.

One of those to respond was Falcon Cars, who said the firm would “closely monitor” bookings to Ingleby Barwick in light of the concerns.

A company spokesperson said: “We are aware that the use of taxis for these  very undesirable activities has been going on for some time.

“It is a strict company policy the we only allow our regular customers a “ wait and return” facility for a booking – these are normally school runs.

“Because we answer every call for a booking, we are able to refuse a booking, and have done so on numerous occasions where our call takers are suspicious as to the nature of the journey if it’s a “wait and return”.”

“We will continue to adhere to our strict policies and procedures to prevent such activity being conducted by the use of our vehicles.

“We have an excellent reputation with the public and will not let anything jeopardise that.”