Significant arrests after drug raids across London as Operation Gravity officers look to cut off “head of the snake”
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Officers from Norfolk working alongside the Metropolitan Police made 'significant arrests' in warrants across the capital last week under the ongoing campaign against Class A drugs.
As the force works to remove 'the head of the snake' in their fight against the spread of county line drug networks from London, they have thanked the public for what they describe as their 'most productive publicly supported operation ever'.
Operation Gravity has been running for more than 100 days since Norfolk Constabulary declared a critical incident in response to serious drug-related violence across the county.
In that time 152 arrests have been made, 62 from the London area and including boys as young as 15. They were only made possible after more than 700 people phoned the control room quoting Gravity specifically.
Chief Inspector Chris Harvey, of Norfolk Police, said: 'This is never going to go away, but this has been the most productive publicly supported operation we have ever had. To maintain the momentum we have had so far, we need to keep that public awareness.'
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During the campaign around £38,000 worth of Class A drugs, £42,000 in cash and 23 knives have been seized.
'While we are doing the local stuff we are working with the Met to get the head of the snake,' added Chief Insp Harvey. 'They are the ones pulling the strings. The young ones we are seeing in Norfolk are not actually gang members, they are being exploited. What we need to do is track back and find out who are the Fagans who are identifying them and sending them here.
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'We want that fear to be on the drug dealers coming into Norfolk. The public are on the streets 24/7 365 and in bigger numbers than we are. The reporting so far has been brilliant.'
T/ACC Mike Fawcett, who has been leading the operation but will now hand over the reins to Chief Superintendent Paul Sanford, said there has been a reduction in serious violence over the last 100 days.
'This is still a critical incident and we need to keep the focus on it, but we have not had the stabbings we saw 100 days ago,' he said. 'The aim of this from the start was to make Norfolk a hostile environment for drug dealing, and I think it is.
'There are fewer active lines in Norfolk as a result of Operation Gravity at this moment in time. It is a business, so we can't be complacent. Where there is a gap in the market someone will want to come and fill that gap.
'We asked for help and the public have stood up and provided the information we need.'
A week of action
Three people have been arrested in raids at address in Dagenham and Hackney on suspicion of drugs and money laundering offences on Tuesday, March 28.
Four people including a 15-year-old boy from the London area were arrested on suspicion of drugs offences at an address in Carlton Gardens on Wednesday, March 29. Officers seized a quantity of Class A drugs and £1,200 in cash.
A 17-year-old boy from the Ilford area has been charged with possession with intent to supply Class A drugs and being concerned in the supply of Class A drugs after officers attended an address in North Denes Road, Great Yarmouth, on March 29.
A woman in her 30s and a man in his 40s from the Yarmouth area were arrested on suspicion of possessing a Class A drug and theft.
Two further warrants were executed in Music House Lane in Norwich on March 28, where a large quantity of cash was seized and two men in their 20s from the Middlesex area were arrested on suspicion of money laundering offences, while a man in his 30s from the Middlesex area was arrested on suspicion of burglary.
Nurses joining raids
Mental health nurses have now attended around 20 warrants alongside officers from Norfolk Police in a new outreach initiative for Class A drug users.
Terri Cooper-Barnes, deputy service manager with Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation trust, leads a team of nurses based in the police control room.
She said: 'By working proactively with the police, we hope to engage with this vulnerable group and encourage them into treatment.
'We want to identify these individuals early and do everything we can to help them access support, and feel that by going to speak to them in their own homes is the best way of achieving this. At the same time, we can carry out a mental health assessment, as many of these people may have an existing condition as well as a drug dependency.'
Anyone needing help and support can contact Norfolk Recovery Partnership on 0300 7900 227 for confidential advice and treatment.
Ten signs of drug dealing
To help local residents spot the top 10 signs of drug dealing, today this newspaper is printing a cut out and keep poster which offers a step by step guide to Operation Gravity.
The poster will be distributed across the county by officers over the coming weeks and will also be available to download from the force website.
T/ACC Fawcett said: 'In order to help the public help us, we have come up with a ten-point guide on how to spot the signs of drug dealing, as well as how to identify those vulnerable members of our community who may be at risk of exploitation.
'We hope this will be a valuable tool in encouraging the public to come forward with any information they have - and they don't have to give their name as all calls will be treated anonymously.'
Anyone with information about illegal drugs activity should contact Norfolk Constabulary on 101. If you prefer to stay anonymous you can also contact Crimestoppers on 07800 555111.