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On Thursday (4 May) officers from the Drugs Related Harm Team arrested their 100th person, since the team was formed four months ago on 3 Jan.

A 16-year-old boy from Essex was arrested on suspicion of being concerned in offer to supply a Class A drug. He has been released from custody but remains under investigation.

The boy was handed over to his father and safeguarding teams have been advised.

In total the team has referred 14 children to social services and the national referral mechanism for children being criminally exploited (CCE).

In addition to the children, over 200 adults have been directly safeguarded by actions of police or partner agencies in this period. These local drug users, who are vulnerable because of their drug and alcohol addiction, have been exploited by drug dealers and criminal gangs who force their way into users’ homes to use it as a base to deal drugs from, known as cuckooing.

A number of these drug users are now engaging with officers and are using drug recovery hubs and treatment centres.

The team has seized around £280,000 of drugs and removed weapons from the streets of Portsmouth, including imitation firearms, knives, blades, asps and batons. Additionally, £37,000 in cash has been seized and a number of financial investigations are underway to target the assets and proceeds of drug dealers, who we suspect make a living through crime.

Drugs Related Harm Detective Sergeant Dan Sanzen-Baker, said: “I am pleased with the results that our team has achieved so far; we have proactively tackled drug dealing and removed drugs and weapons from the streets of Portsmouth and most importantly we have safeguarded vulnerable children and adults, who are exploited by drugs gangs.

“We have received positive feedback from our partners who like this style of policing, which focuses on taking action against the drug dealers, not the vulnerable users.

Portsmouth District Chief Inspector Jim Pegler, said: “When we set up this Drug Related Harm team we sent out a clear message that we would identify the drugs networks that cause the most harm and dismantle them. Police resources are limited but we will be relentless in tackling people who bring high levels of drug related harm to Portsmouth. We accept that there is a demand for drugs like heroin and crack in Portsmouth and we recognise that often people using these drugs have multiple and complex needs. We encourage people gripped by addiction to seek help and treatment as this is the only way to reduce the demand for these dangerous drugs. Substance misuse remains a key focus for the Safer Portsmouth Partnership because of the wide ranging impact it has in the city.

“I am pleased to confirm that we have worked well in partnership to protect vulnerable people and children; making people safer is always our top priority. I am not complacent, the reality is that there is no shortage of gangs from London and other cities who will quickly fill any gaps in the drug market. So we remain determined to make the city safer through search, seizure and arrests targeting the most risky drug networks. There will always be people who supply drugs in Portsmouth but if they exploit children or vulnerable adults, bring weapons and violence to our city then we will dismantle the networks and lock up the organisers. The community has a massive part to play in helping us take opportunities to identify and arrest drug dealers. We welcome all information to police on 101 or crimestoppers on 0800 555 111, so that we can build a better picture of drug supply in Portsmouth.’’

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