The ‘booming’ economy? Investigating drug dealing in Greater Manchester and the streets of Oldham

By Mihaela Ivantcheva

In contrast to the stagnating financial markets hit by the after-effects of the downturn and the grim prospects of a possible second recession, the drug market is proliferating and booming.

Never reaching a maturing point, this business always comes up with new substances and trends – the rise of ketamine and tranquillisers, the comeback of ecstasy pills, the emergence of new psychoactive substances.

In Europe, England has historically been one of the countries most affected by the rapidly diversifying drug market. What is the situation in Manchester?

Figures recently released by the Home Office show that the Greater Manchester Police (GMP) has carried out on average 1,000 drug seizures a month in the last year.

The report reveals a steady increase in the number of drug seizure in Greater Manchester since 2004. For 2010, the area shows the highest number of drug seizures in whole England, led only by the London region.

According to the report, the most widespread drug in Manchester is cannabis, a class B drug, followed by cocaine and heroin, class A drugs. Not to underestimate are amphetamines – synthetic stimulants, that are gaining ground in Manchester as well as nationwide.

The growing number of drug seizures highlights the gravity of the problem and the efforts of the GMP to tackle it. Oldham in Manchester has been one of their target areas.

The police raided 16 addresses in March and 15 in July as part of an operation codenamed Rescind that was designed to tackle drug dealing in Oldham. At the beginning of November, fourteen people from the area were arrested as part of the same operation.

“Operation Rescind has seen three separate days of action result in dozens of drug dealers removed from the streets of Oldham,” said Deputy Chief Constable Simon Byrne from the Greater Manchester Police.

The operation was launched following community concerns about drug dealing and distribution of heroin and cocaine in the area as well as increasing crime and antisocial behaviour.

A late evening walk on the streets in Oldham, after most of the shops have closed and the streets are deserted, may very well reveal some of the community’s concerns. Ali (name changed), who lives in Oldham, agrees to show me around the area.

“There is a problem in Oldham in terms of drugs. It is not only the newspapers, you hear it from people close to you who have been affected or involved in drug-related activities,” says Ali.

“Oldham is a tight community and you do hear that people have been locked up or someone’s house has been raided.”

Ali explains that each area in Oldham has its own dealer. The price depends on the quality and quantity of the drugs.

“People in the area know who sells drugs and where to go to if you want to buy some. Overall, it is very easy to get hold of drugs here,” he says.

Ali acknowledges that the GMP have put a lot of efforts in targeting drug distribution but doubts that the real dealers are behind bars.

“Dealers keep their hands clean, they have other people working for them which makes it harder for the police to target them.”

In his opinion, most of the time, intermediaries are being sent to prison and not the core dealers who stay hidden and unharmed.

Another problem he mentions is the short sentence that they serve: “After couple of years, these same people are back, cracking on again.”

“It is easy money made, you don’t have to work, you only sell drugs, you just drive around in your car and you are your own boss,” adds Ali.

The recession and mounting unemployment among young people are factors that might strengthen the position of drug dealers and their networks – with more young people tempted by the prospect of ‘easy money’.

Anyone concerned about drug dealing in their community can contact Crimestoppers, anonymously, on 0800 555 111 or find details of their Neighbourhood Policing Team at

Drug Statistics for Greater Manchester 2010/11

Drug seizures – 11,740 (9% increase in 2010/11 compared to 2009/2010)

Number of cannabis (marihuana) seizures – 9,700

Number of cocaine seizures – 927

Number heroin seizures – 580

Number of amphetamine seizures – 472

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