Mask of secrecy shields traffickers

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The Independent Online

The redbrick terraces of south Halifax have a fierce privacy, which makes public recognition of a local trade in heroin hard to trace.

The redbrick terraces of south Halifax have a fierce privacy, which makes public recognition of a local trade in heroin hard to trace.

Pakistanis wandering near the bricked-up squalor of Vickerman Street, believed to be at the hub of the local trade, offered little more than puzzled shrugs at the weekend.

Many of those Asians with a heroin addiction here will not even make use of public drug services. Their families seek out private health care instead, attracted by the secrecy it offers and convinced that itis less of a part of the state enforcement process.

The community's reticence poses a threat to the town, say health agencies. "It masks the true number of addicts. We just don't know what we are dealing with," said a source close to Calderdale and Kirklees health authority.

The authority believes it could soon have an epidemic on its hands, fuelled by dire economic circumstances, in which a ballooning population of young Asian men chases meagre local employment prospects.

For Halifax's heroin traffick-ers, a daily flight from Pakistan to Manchester has made all the difference, allowing heroin to be brought back after frequent trips home by members of the huge Pakistani population.

The heroin is shuttled byroad from Manchester to Bradford, where the trade is centred, then worked down the M62 trans-Pennine corridor. Halifax's problems are mirrored in the small mill towns of Colne and Nelson, in east Lancashire.

Volumes of heroin moved around Halifax by family-runtrafficking organisations haveled to a generation of couriers becoming addicts, creating "an entirely new pattern of involvement", says Professor Geoffrey Pearson of Goldsmiths' College, London, who has worked with addicts in West Yorkshire.

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