March 3, 2023
Two shops have been closed down in Darlington following an operation to target those suspected of supplying illegal vapes and cigarettes.
Officers from Durham Constabulary have also arrested four people as part of a joint operation with Darlington Borough Council’s trading standards team, which was carried out over several days this week.
The police said the action followed 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 Darlington Trading Standards into the sale and supply of counterfeit and illegal tobacco, cigarettes, and vapes.
“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,” Detective Constable Martin Rowell, from Durham Constabulary, said.
“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.”
Councillor Mike Renton, the council’s 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 council’s 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.”