The drugs problems facing towns have been recognised by police and have been raised as a major election issue.
Earlier this year BBC Essex reported that children as young as 12 in the county were being groomed to carry and sell drugs by London gangs.
More and more gangs are recruiting from within Essex towns, rather than sending youngsters out from the capital.
County lines drug suppliers are known to operate, particularly in Grays, Southend, Colchester and Clacton.
- BBC News: Election 2019
Thomas, 32, from Grays in the Thurrock constituency, wrote to the BBC and asked: “I would like to know what each candidate is going to do about the drug epidemic in the borough? Not just added police numbers.”
Conservative candidate Jackie Doyle-Price, who won seat in 2010, 2015 and 2017, said: “All too often you can smell what is obviously weed. I am aware that the new town centre police teams have had some success and I am assured that they will act on intelligence if they receive reports from the public.
“I urge everyone to report their concerns, either online or via 111. The more evidence the police have, the easier it is for them to take action.
“I would also add that drug users are supporting organised crime that is causing a menace to our society. Recreational drug use is not a victimless crime and should not go unpunished.”
Labour Party candidate John Kent said: “I live and work in Grays and regularly see drugs being dealt on our streets. We do need better education in schools and more effective and better resourced drug and alcohol rehabilitation services.
“That relies, not only on more investment, but working with some of the small grass roots organisations that are already doing some good work locally to help them do more.
“Finally, it is shameful the United Kingdom has the highest recorded level of mortality from drug misuse since records began. This cannot be allowed to continue.”
Liberal Democrat candidate Stewart Stone said: “A Lib Dem government would decriminalise soft drugs, and would reclassify use/abuse as a medical issue, rather than a criminal one.
“This would make it easier for people who feel they have a problem with soft drugs to get the right kind of help, rather than just throwing a criminal record at them.
“The issue goes much deeper however into the community with the need in general to engage with young people more from an early stage and educate them regarding the perils of drug abuse with presentations which could be given by former addicts.”
Green Party candidate Ben Harvey said: “The war on drugs has failed. No matter the sentences or the border controls, drugs will always come in to the country because people want to buy them and there is money to be made.
“The solution, counter-intuitively, is decriminalisation and legalisation.
“Legalisation means that HMRC takes tax revenue, the quality is assured meaning fewer deaths from impure product and help is available – drug use can be treated the same as smoking or alcohol abuse. Heroin would only be available via prescription.”
Independent candidate James Woollard said: “Increasing police wouldn’t be the answer to this issue in any case. Extra Police would only be effective against the suppliers.
“In order to tackle an issue like this we need better education on the consequences of drug abuse.
“Workshops similar to those used for speeding may be an answer for those caught using. However to have an impact they would need to be ‘no holds barred’ and very graphic’.”