More than £120,000 in suspected class A drugs were recovered last week as part of a new approach to tackling cross-border drugs supply activities.
The find was made after a team of officers dedicated to investigating serious criminality stopped a man acting suspiciously in Cheltenham.
Once a small amount of crack cocaine was found a further search of a nearby property being let out on Airbnb uncovered a much larger haul of suspected heroin and crack cocaine.
Enquiries are ongoing but a man has been charged with being concerned in the supply of class A drugs and has been remanded in custody to appear at Gloucester Crown Court on 1 April.
The criminals behind it are believed to be part of a county lines drugs network, which involves drug dealers from big city areas coming into smaller cities and towns and often bringing with them an escalation in violence and intimidation.
It was just one result amongst many for Operation Scorpion, which ran from Monday 7 March through to Sunday 13 March.
- £5000 of cannabis was found after officers raided a house in the Forest of Dean -a man remains under investigation for drugs manufacturing
- Three warrants were carried out simultaneously in Cheltenham, with class A drugs recovered, two people arrested and zombie knives, a machete and designer clothes seized
- Over £1000 of suspected crack cocaine and cocaine were seized at an address in Brockworth, along with a large knife and over £5000 in designer footwear and clothing
- Heroin was recovered in Stroud following a proactive warrant at an address
- £5000 in cannabis was seized and three people arrested in Gloucester after two warrants by local officers working with Trading Standards
- In the Cotswolds, officers carried out a successful warrant a week earlier, leading to the recovery of thousands of pounds worth of cocaine and designer clothing and the conviction of a man for class A drugs supply.
Meanwhile, Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) systems, which help officers check if a vehicle has any links to criminality, was used on major routes in and out of the county throughout the week, in one case leading to a car being stopped and taken off the road and a quantity of drugs being seized.
And neighbourhood officers worked with partner agencies including local councils and Change, Grow, Live, to visit targeted communities such as sheltered housing to check on the welfare of vulnerable people who can be exploited by drug dealing.
Officers also visited schools to help children and teachers understand the signs of exploitation while hotel staff were given a briefing on what to look out for.
Work during the week by neighbourhood Police Community Support Officers has already identified a number of people who may be at risk and efforts are now being made to ensure they get help and support.
Detective Inspector David Shore-Nye, who coordinated the operation in Gloucestershire, said: “We understand how devastating drugs crime can be – whether that’s to local communities who have to suffer the related anti-social behaviour and stigma of it on their doorsteps or the vulnerable people often exploited by the drugs gangs.
“This operation coincided with County Lines Intensification Week and the seizure we made in Cheltenham was significant on that front. Airbnb properties are sometimes used by dealers from out of town to set up a base in the county and other tactics may include the targeting of vulnerable drug users or children to distribute their product, tempting them with drugs or money. The consequences for those people and society generally can be devastating though, as we have seen in the past in this county.
“Aside from that, the amount of cocaine and criminal property recovered should be a reminder of the profits that are often made by drug dealers and why serious criminals who may be involved in things like serious violence and human trafficking are part of the drugs supply chain.
“We have targeted the supply chain hard but I would ask even recreational users to think about those links and how they could be contributing to the work of these criminal gangs.
“I hope the depth of activity during this operation and the involvement of so many of our teams shows our commitment to tackling drugs crime. The support of the PCC and our Chief Officers to it as part of the new police and crime prevention plan should send out a very strong message to criminals that there is no place for you in Gloucestershire.”
PCC Chris Nelson said, “This is a big plus for the way in which all five police services in the region have been able to come together for the first time and launch a co-ordinated attack on drugs-related crime.
“Taking those people off the streets makes a real difference and should reassure the many law-abiding people in our communities who want to see drug dealers removed from where they live.
“It will also help to reduce crimes that feed off drugs and are fuelled by drug dealing. Dealers who prey on users, who often commit offences just to feed their habit.
“While big-city based organised crime groups, who deal in cross county lines operations, might be regarded as more serious, we want to send a strong message to local drug dealers that we are coming for you too. We also want to reassure our communities that we listen to what you tell us and shout from the rooftops that drug dealing at any level is unacceptable and anti-social.”
Anyone with information about illegal drugs activity should report it to their local police service online or via 101. Always call 999 in an emergency.
To pass on information anonymously, speak to the independent charity Crimestoppers 24 hours a day, 365 days of the year on 0800 555 111 or use their non-traceable online form. Contact will remain 100% anonymous. Always. They will never ask for a name or contact details and the phone call or online report will never be traced. If the information supplied leads to an arrest and charge, there could be a cash reward of up to £1,000.