DRUG dealers are using social media to brazenly advertise their services to Darlington residents - and kilos of the illegal substances can be purchased at just the click of a button. 

Dozens of dealers are using Instagram as a place to advertise their dial-a-drug services and offering "safe delivery" by directing potential customers towards incognito messaging apps to hide their identities. 

Read more: Social media giant Instagram removes drug dealer accounts after Echo sting

An investigation by The Northern Echo found multiple dealers based in the local area were willing to sell large quantities of drugs from multiple kinds of cannabis, cocaine and edibles. Images of white powders, pills and cannabis were visible after a simple search on the popular social media platform.

Instagram accounts containing little to no posted images advertise their services in the bio section by posting multiple usernames for messaging apps like Snapchat and Wickr.

The Northern Echo: Instagram accounts are set up to advertise drug deals. Contact information has been erased.Instagram accounts are set up to advertise drug deals. Contact information has been erased.

The lack of age verification done by dealers means underage teenagers can easily get their hands on illegal drugs as the click of a button. 

We contacted multiple dealers through encrypted messaging service Wickr who used Instagram to advertise their supplies to find out more about what they were selling and how quickly it could be picked up. 

Read more: Darlington and Durham MPs hit out as drugs being sold on Instagram

One dealer said a drugs drop off in Darlington town centre would take just 14 minutes - quicker than most takeaways in the town - while another shockingly agreed to drop off outside a school's gates in broad daylight. 

Dealers on the messaging app quickly sent price lists unprovoked, keen to secure a quick deal. One dealer provided a list offering 11 different types of cannabis from "White Widow" to "Sour Diesel", costing up to £1,200 for a pound in weight. 

Yet despite this illegal activity, dozens of accounts continue to go undetected by the authorities, meaning the dealers are using the social media site as a free platform to earn hundreds of pounds. 

Instagram has since deleted all of the accounts revealed by The Northern Echo as violating its rules, which include buying, selling, trading, donating or soliciting drugs.

A spokesperson for Meta, which owns Instagram, said: "We have removed the three accounts flagged. Buying and selling drugs is strictly against our rules and we don’t want it on Instagram. 

"We use a mix of technology and human review to remove this content as quickly as possible, and found over 97 per cent of the drug sales content we removed between July and September before anyone reported it. 

"We’re constantly working to get better at detection, and we’ll continue working with law enforcement and youth organisations to help support our community and keep drug sales off Instagram.”

The worrying findings come after figures showed the North East had the highest number in the country. Shocking analysis shows the region experienced the highest rate of deaths in 2020 – 104.6 deaths per million - three times higher than the lowest rate, which was in London.

County Durham’s 72 drug-related deaths were the highest in the region, and a stark increase from 48 the previous year.

Deaths increased by two to 16 in Darlington while in Teesside, there were 123 deaths across the four local authorities.

In response to the findings, a Durham Constabulary spokeswoman said: “Buying and selling illicit substances online is a serious criminal offence which could result in a prison sentence.

“While social media is an excellent tool for staying connected, sadly there are people who exploit this and use it to further their criminal activity.

“If you have any information on potential drug dealing in your area, please report it anonymously to Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.”


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