Lincolnshire County Council is ramping up its efforts to stub out illicit cigarettes in the county, securing closure orders against eight shops in the past month alone.
The closure orders, which are issued by the Courts, make it illegal for anyone to enter the premises for a period of up to three months. Working with Lincolnshire Police licensing and neighbourhood policing teams, Lincolnshire Trading Standards has found that the orders are an immediate and effective way of disrupting shops that sell illicit tobacco.
So far this year, Lincolnshire Trading Standards has secured closure orders for 12 shops for trading illegally – and 29 since 2020. Some stores have been forced to close two or three times as illegal trading continued.
Principal Lincolnshire Trading Standards Officer, Andy Wright, said: “Unfortunately, in most towns in Lincolnshire there are shops that sell illegal cigarettes and vapes. On the face of it, they will often look like they sell food items as a façade to mask the true purpose of the shop, which is to sell the illegal products.
“Together with Lincolnshire Police, we’re working hard to disrupt the illegal tobacco market in the county. And the Courts have been very receptive to our applications and have granted the maximum closure period of three months in respect of all but one of the premises, which received a two month closure.
“There’s a definite link between the sale of illegal cigarettes and other crime. We’re focusing our efforts largely in areas where residents have indicated that they feel at risk from crime and anti-social behaviour.
“In some areas, such closure orders have led to a 12% reduction in reported anti-social behaviour and a 16% reduction in violent crime. In short, we’re listening to the concerns of local people and taking action to remove criminals trading in the town, and the related crime they bring.
“After the three month closure period has ended, we fully intend to reapply for further closures if the illegal activity is still happening. This is exactly what we’ve done on West Street in Boston where Bucharest, Europlus, and Tatry (now Market Azadi) have all been closed on three separate occasions for a total of nine months each.”
Inspector Ian Cotton, Lincolnshire Police, said: “The Lincolnshire Police Alcohol Licensing Team have been working together with Trading Standards for 18 months with Home Office Immigration teams targeting these issues. The results are testament to this strong partnership, which will continue to serve the Lincolnshire community.”
Lincolnshire Police and Lincolnshire Trading Standards have recently begun to work even more closely in Spalding. The teams have recently achieved three closure orders through a joint application process, where Trading Standards supply evidence and police legal teams bring the application to court.
This new relationship can speed up the process and allow the authorities to apply for more closure orders and further disrupt the illicit tobacco market. Other neighbourhood policing teams within the county are now looking to develop similar relationships with Trading Standards.
Sergeant Amy Brigginshaw from Lincolnshire Police Alcohol Licensing Team, said: “Our team is committed to working alongside Lincolnshire Trading Standards in closing the stores that choose not operate legally and reviewing their licenses where necessary.”