A popular seaside town once dubbed the “party capital” of Britain is facing a dangerous drug epidemic. Newquay, in Cornwall, is known for its sandy beaches and strong waves perfect for surfers. But in recent years, it has also experienced a severe drug issue, with some of its areas having become “synonymous with drugs”, according to a local.
Home Office figures show Devon and Cornwall Police seized 18.7kg of cocaine in the year to March 2022 – up from 16.2kg the year before. The amount of ketamine seized also rose, going from 0.3kg in 2021 to 1.8kg last year.
CrimeRate stats suggest Newquay is the second most dangerous small town in Cornwall, and among the top five most dangerous overall out of the 212 towns, cities and villages in the area.
The overall crime rate in the town in 2022 was 69 crimes per 1,000 people, the website stated, 73 percent higher than the county-wide average of 40 per 1,000 residents.
Last month, three men were jailed for a large-scale drugs conspiracy that saw illegal substances transported to Cornwall and proceeds from sales sent back to Liverpool, as reported by Cornwall Live.
Dave Farrow, a local businessman, moved from Norfolk to Newquay in 1983 and said to have seen a transformation undergone by the area when it comes to drug use.
Speaking about his first years in the town, when he worked as a club doorman, he told The Sun: “In those days people would often come out at 10pm or later, they’d be already drunk and wanting to party, and it would get quite messy. It was the party capital at that point and the streets were packed with groups of young people.”
Mr Farrow, who now runs the Karma Surfboard shop near Towan beach, recalled how he would find people “snorting cocaine” in the toilet cubicles during his shifts. He believes the problem with drugs faced by Newquay is now “different”.
Mr Farrow said: “There are areas of Newquay which have become synonymous with drugs. Typically, they are the streets which have houses split into flats, rather than housing whole families. That’s where the dealers and a lot of the users tend to live, but it happens openly in the town too.”
Smoking cannabis in public has become “almost socially acceptable”, he continued, and he claimed to have even seen people snorting cocaine on the beach.
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Another local, Stephen Walker owns the fishing and angling shop Sling Your Hook on Beach Road, also spoke about a widespread drug problem in the town, saying he has seen both people using illegal substances and dealing them in the streets.
As noted by Mr Farrow, Newquay used to be a hotspot for young people wanting to party after they ended their school exams as well as for hen and stag dos.
To shrug off the town’s reputation of Britain’s Megaluf, police and council chiefs clamped down on anti-social behaviour in 2009, banning T-shirts with rude slogans and X-rated inflatables.
As the town started to shed its reputation as a destination for wild partygoers, the local beaches also got cleaned up, with clubgoers no longer heading to the beach to take continue their nights out and take drugs.
The main areas interested by drug-related crime now appear to be away from the shores.
While acknowledging the existing issues, officials are working hard to put an end to the drug epidemic, much like they already did to Newquay’s reputation as party city.
Alison Hernandez, police and crime commissioner for Devon, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly, told The Sun: “It is absolutely vital that we work with other forces to tackle the drug dealing which does so much damage in our communities. These operations will continue with my full support, which includes direct financial investment, so our communities and the dealers who seek to exploit our most vulnerable citizens understand that this evil trade will not be tolerated here.”
Newquay town councillor Louis Gardner said: “County Lines is an issue that the police are fighting hard to tackle. This issue is common across rural areas, especially areas with a high seasonal uplift. The issue of drugs needs a multi-agency response. Newquay Safe was established as an organisation over 10 years ago, the first of its kind in the UK. This organisation meets monthly in the winter months but weekly in the summer to tackle issues at the source.
“Led by Cornwall Council, members include all of the emergency services, local authorities, charities and community organisations who work together for a number of common aims, drug issues being one. The organisation has been so successful in its approach that this model has been rolled out all over the country. It is only through initiatives such as these that we can succeed.”