POLICE have launched a drugs crackdown after being alerted to the extent of the problem by schoolchildren.

Police bosses sent a dedicated beat bobby to spend more time in the Whitebirk area of Blackburn after concern that local people had stopped reporting crime.

And they were shocked when nearly all of the top 40 entries in a crime prevention poster competition he helped organised for children aged between five and 11 at Intack Primary School highlighted the need to deal with drugs.

Now officers will visit all the homes on the estate over the next few months in a bid to increase their knowledge about the supply and use of drugs.

Already since the competition at the end of July, nine warrants have been executed in the Whitebirk area and 23 people have been arrested for drug-related offences as a result of information from the public and police inquiries.

The latest initiative is part of the Blackburn with Darwen Residents Against Drugs scheme (BRAD) launched at the end of July.

The scheme is aimed at encouraging people to come forward with information so the police can tackle drugs suppliers and drugs related crime.

PC Steve Jenkinson, the beat bobby for the Whitebirk area since April, will be leading the latest drive and visiting every resident on the estate and asking them to complete a questionnaire.

The intelligence gathered will be used to build up a picture of the drug problem in the area, target suppliers and execute search warrants against them.

Inspector John O'Reilly, officer in charge of the Whitebirk area, said: "The decision to provide a dedicated beat officer to spend more time in the area has resulted in more information being given to us and the posters from the children indicated to us that the drugs problem in Whitebirk, although not the worst in the division, was perhaps worse than we realised.

"These pictures showed that the young people on the estate had a good knowledge of drugs and their use.

"Many of the pictures showed syringes, but all of them were sending out the message that this is a problem that should not be tolerated.

"We became aware that there were crime problems in the Whitebirk area that we were not being told about as people had stopped reporting them to us, even though we had community officers in that area."

Head teacher Dave Crowther said more than 200 children aged between five and 11 took part in the poster competition, with the best 40 handed to police to judge.

He added: "The vast majority of those were related to drugs. The school takes a very active view of drug education and we try to be proactive with the children.

"We make them aware of issues and educate them not to get involved in drugs. The posters demonstrated that the pupils were aware of what was going on around them and I am proud that they care enough to want to do something to improve the area."

PC Jenkinson added: "Any information will help us and the questionnaires are strictly confidential. The people who live on the estate are our eyes and ears and it is only with their help that we can combat the problems there."