Four people arrested and two shops closed in Operation Nightstar
Four people have been arrested and two shops closed down following an operation to target those suspected of supplying illegal vapes and cigarettes.
Officers from Durham Constabulary joined forces with the council’s trading standards team for the operation, which was carried out over several days this week.
The action follows extensive investigation work and intelligence gathering into the supply of illicit and over-strength goods in Darlington, and the sale of vapes to children as young as 12.
Three men aged 43, 38, and 28 were arrested on suspicion of possession of counterfeit goods and interviewed by officers. They have been released under investigation while enquiries continue.
A 35-year-old woman was also arrested on suspicion of possession of criminal property and obstructing police. She has been released under investigation.
A search of Easy Shop, on Victoria Road, also resulted in the seizure of a quantity of illegal cigarettes and vapes.
Both Easy Shop and Neasham Road Mini Market have been issued with premises closure notices following the sale of vapes to children, and the supply of illicit and over-strength tobacco and vapes. The notices mean the businesses will be closed for the next three months.
The action forms part of Operation Nightstar – an ongoing investigation by Durham Constabulary and our trading standards team into the sale and supply of counterfeit and illegal tobacco, cigarettes, and vapes.
Detective Constable Martin Rowell, from Durham Constabulary, said: “Illicit and dangerous tobacco and vapes can not only cause serious harm to people’s health, but the proceeds are often invested into organised crime and can help fund more serious and violent offences.
“Supplying these products to underage children can also open them up to potential exploitation and criminality – if you are doing this, then you can expect a visit from us.
“We know that our communities will not tolerate the antisocial behaviour and criminality that these activities bring. If you have any information regarding potential criminality in your community then please report it to us - we will always act on intelligence submitted to us, as this operation has shown.”
Councillor Mike Renton, cabinet member for stronger communities, added: “People might think they are getting cheap products, but actually it harms the community as it supports organised crime and affects law-abiding businesses, not to mention the health dangers involved.”
Shaun Trevor, from the trading standards team, said: “Darlington trading standards will act on all complaints received about problem premises, particularly those selling counterfeit and illegal goods to children. We will use every available tool to put a stop to these traders in Darlington, including premises closure orders. Working with partner agencies has paid huge dividends and will continue.”
Local residents have welcomed the action taken by police and trading standards, with one commenting: “I am very grateful for the attention given regarding the shop, the street has been so much more quiet since it was shut down and I don’t have car doors banging until 10 o’clock at night. This makes my life so much more at ease.”
Anyone with any information relating to potential criminality in their area can call Durham Constabulary on 101, or submit it online via 101 Live Chat at www.durham.police.uk
Alternatively, information can be submitted anonymously to Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111 or via their website, www.crimestoppers-uk.org
If you have any information that can assist trading standards please email [email protected] or report it using the online form (this can be done anonymously) at www.darlington.gov.uk/ts-report-it
Photo shows Shaun Trevor, of Darlington Trading Standards, and Detective Constable Jonathan Keenan, from Durham Constabulary, serving a closure notice on Easy Shop, on Victoria Road