Two stores which were found to be selling illegal vapes and cigarettes have been banned from opening for three months.
The stores in High Street and Portland Street, Lincoln, have been given closure orders by the court which makes it illegal for anyone to enter the shop building, except in exceptional circumstances.
Officers from the Lincoln Neighbourhood Policing Team carried out enforcement visits at both premises with Trading Standards in August.
Illegal counterfeit vapes were found at the Lincoln Food Store in High Street, which was also found to be supplying people under the age of 18. The business has been referred to City of Lincoln Council licensing.
At the European Store in Portland Street, a bag full of illegal cigarettes and a large quantity of cash was found by police officers.
The closure order is in place at the European Store until 21 November and the Lincoln Food Store until 3 December. The orders mean that the businesses cannot trade during this time at those locations.
Signs have been placed on the outside of the buildings to offer an explanation to the public about the closures, and demonstrate the action which will be taken when shops don’t operate within the law.
Neighbourhood Policing Inspector Ian Richardson, said: “The sale of illegal cigarettes and vapes is just part of the problem; we know that there will be linked criminal activity, and we have a duty to step in and take action to help keep our community safe.
"It’s important for us to work closely with Trading Standards on issues like this, and to make sure that the public know what’s happened. At both premises, where there would usually be adverts for food and drinks, there are now large posters advertising that criminal activity took place there, and informing the public that the stores are closed.
"These signs are a very real visual deterrent for other businesses which might be operating under the guise of legitimacy that they will be dealt with robustly. They also help to show the public that police and Trading Standards have taken action.”
No one should be in the premises except the landlord, solely for maintenance purposes, and emergency services if required. Anyone else is committing an offence and could be arrested. If found guilty of an offence, they could be arrested and are liable to either imprisonment or a fine.
Principal Lincolnshire Trading Standards officer, Andy Wright, added: “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. 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.”
If you know anything about illegal tobacco products or vapes being sold in your community let us know - you can call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111 or report online at crimestoppers-uk.org.