Toppling drug kings of Castle Market - VIDEO and PICTURE GALLERY

ONCE a vibrant and bustling place to shop, Castle Markets has become a no-go zone for some, thanks to drug dealers and their gangs openly selling to addicts and intimidating passers-by. But a police operation this week aimed at locking up the dealers is being hailed as the start of a better era. Crime Reporter Claire Lewis joined the operation.

By The Newsroom
Thursday, 27th September 2007, 8:01 am
Updated Thursday, 27th September 2007, 11:37 am

THE banter among traders is still there and the same mix of products are still for sale, but the throngs of shoppers who once flocked there are no more.

It is by no means deserted, but traders know that business has suffered in recent months and many of them put it down to drug dealing and associated crime.

They talk of a number of dealers working the streets with a group of people acting as their "look outs", but they say that some dealers are so brazen that they sit on unused outdoor market stalls selling drugs to their regulars.

Gangs they associate with and attract, especially at the main entrance to the markets, are blamed for driving many shoppers away.

Graham Longden, President of Sheffield's Market Traders Association, said many people feel nervous and intimidated by the drug gangs and addicts.

"One of the main problem areas is the stairs next to the main entrance where there are always dealers hanging about and being approached by people while the rest of the gang keeps a look out for the police," he said.

"There are people coming and going at all times of the day, even kids in their school uniforms - 14 year olds - and we all know why they are there.

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"We have all lost trade and have complained regularly about it, so the activity this week can only be seen as a good thing by everyone and a positive step forward in terms of improving the markets and getting our customers back."

He said some shoppers have stopped using the markets because of feeling too frightened to walk past the dealers and the addicts they attract.

"It is intimidating to walk past these people, particularly when they are in a group right next to the main entrance," he added.

"They can leave people fearful of being mugged by people they know are hanging around because they want drugs.

"The people involved in this are so open about it, they will even sit on unoccupied outdoor stalls and sell from there; it's unbelievable.

"We are glad that some positive action has been taken and hope that it will help with the cleaning-up of the area and that the word will get out and that customers will come back.

"There is nowhere else like Castle Market in Sheffield where you can get everything you want under one roof from people who give you an individual service and take the time to talk to you, unlike supermarkets who just treat you as a number.

"The market is an asset the city cannot afford to lose."

One market trader, who does not want to be named, said he too hopes the police operation will lead to an upturn in trade for the area's businesses.

"I have been here for two-and-a half years and the problem has got worse," he said.

For help on drug addiction call the DIP on 0845 004 2220.


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