UPDATE: 45 arrests in huge drugs sting

Swindon Advertiser: The large police convoy rolling out for this morning's huge drugs raid The large police convoy rolling out for this morning's huge drugs raid

WILTSHIRE Police have arrested 45 people during the largest operation of its kind in the force's history.

The day of action, codenamed Op Harness, saw more than 400 police officers and staff execute upwards of 60 warrants at residential and businesses addresses in Swindon and London.

The operation was the second part of a long term undercover operation investigating the supply of Class A drugs in Wiltshire.

As a direct results of today’s activity:
• A total of 45 people have been arrested
•  A large amount of class A drugs have been seized
• £11,500 in cash seized
• £15,000 (street value) of illegal tobacco seized
• 6 of the 45 arrested were from London
• 15 of the 70 addresses were in London
• Over £5,000 in designer clothing/accessories seized
• Weapons including a samurai sword and a machete seized
• Number of electrical goods

Senior Investigating Officer for the covert operation, Detective Inspector Mike Rees said: “Today, sends a strong message out to anyone who sees Wiltshire as an easy target or Wiltshire Police as a soft touch.

“We will not tolerate anyone setting up a drugs network in Swindon or Wiltshire and we will put all of our resources into bringing those involved to justice.

“Today was the culmination of over a year’s hard work from our undercover officers who are putting themselves at risk by associating with known criminals, often without any protection, to build up the intelligence we need for an operation like this.

“I would like to pay my personal respects to these officers – I have total admiration for what they do.”

Operational Commander and Dangerous Drugs Network lead for Wiltshire Police Detective Chief Inspector Craig Holden said: “Today’s activity is one of a number of tactics we use to disrupt and dismantle Dangerous Drugs Networks across our county.

“As a result of this day of action alone, we anticipate that we have significantly disrupted or completely dismantled more than 15 of these networks operating in Swindon.

“Wiltshire Police have a dedicated team to specifically tackle these networks and we will relentlessly pursue those who are responsible for supplying drugs in our communities.

“We rely on local intelligence and I would urge anyone who has information or suspects that drugs are being sold or used in their neighbourhood to contact Wiltshire Police immediately.”

Wiltshire Police worked alongside a number of partnership agencies during the day of action today including Swindon Borough Council, drugs charities, local housing associations and the Swindon Community Safety Partnership.

Local Commander for the North Sector Superintendent Gavin Williams said: “Although the supply of crack and heroin in Swindon is not disproportionate to the population of the town, clearly the effects of even a small amount of dealing class A drugs can be catastrophic.

“Class A drugs in particular can have a detrimental impact on our communities – not just those using the drugs but the wider society. The supply of drugs is directly linked to other crime and disorder.

“Our local communities should feel comfortable and confident in reporting anything they feel is suspicious and all information passed to us will be treated professionally.

“I would direct anyone with concerns to contact their local Neighbourhood Policing Team (NPT) in the first instance as they are often best place to offer advice on any local issues our communities have.”

Today’s operation was observed by Angus Macpherson, Police and Crime Commissioner for Wiltshire and Swindon.

Mr Macpherson was at the briefing at the former RAF Lyneham base, before watching raids on a number of addresses in Swindon.

He said: “Days like this should reassure people in Wiltshire and Swindon that the constabulary does have the resources to mount significant operations.

“The raids should also send out a clear message to the public that those people dealing in drugs in the county will be identified, arrested and put before a court.

“The message to anyone thinking of coming to Wiltshire and Swindon from the cities to commit such crimes is that this is not the sleepy backwater that they might believe it to be.

“I was very pleased to see partner agencies such as HM Revenue and Customs and the UK Border Agency working with police on this operation.”

Operation Harness is a long-term collaborative project tackling issues which matter most to our communities. It involves all police officers and staff over a number of organised days of action throughout the year.

Anyone wishing to report suspected drug use or dealing in their area should contact Wiltshire Police on 101 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111 where information can be left anonymously.

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