Nineteen people have been arrested and an estimate £100,000 seized during an operation targeting a network suspected of supplying cocaine to county lines drugs gangs in west Essex, Hertfordshire, London, and Suffolk.
Today’s arrests are the culmination of a revised way of working for our proactive teams, targeting the leaders of such criminal networks.
Police say they will continue to target the gangs and dealers who sell drugs on the streets. But we are also targeting the criminals who supply those groups.
19 people have been arrested so far.
Two 38-year-old men and two 36-year-old men on suspicion of possession with intent to supply class A drugs.
Two 31-year-old women and a 37-year-old woman on suspicion of being concerned in supplying a controlled drug
A 29-year-old man, two 37-year-old men, three 38-year-old man, a 30-year-old man, a 31-year-old man, 39-year-old man, a 40-year-old man and 36-year-old man on suspicion of being concerned in supplying a controlled drug
A 35-year-old woman on suspicion of money laundering
They all remain in custody for questioning.
Detective Chief Inspector Lewis Basford said: “Today’s arrests are the culmination of a complex investigation into a network of individuals suspected of feeding the drugs market by supplying cocaine to county lines gangs.
“Taking out this organised criminal network is a major blow in drying up the supply to these gangs.
“This investigation is just one example of how we are targeting the chain at every level to dismantle drugs networks and make it even harder for them to operate.
“By taking out these links in the chain, we are also helping to protect vulnerable adults and children who these criminals exploit and use for their own financial gain.”
Specialist officers from Operation Raptor – which is now part of the Serious Violence Unit – have worked tenaciously since May this year to identify the leaders of this network and crack their sophisticated techniques to evade detection, including the use of cryptocurrency and encrypted phones.
The Serious Violence Unit was set up in in July this year to dismantle and disrupt county drug lines and gangs and target knife offenders in Essex.
These criminals are not only involved in violence but drugs gangs also groom and exploit young people and vulnerable adults, often without the victims realising because those behind the exploitation are manipulative.
The unit brings together our existing Operation Raptor teams, who have been at the forefront of Essex Police’s work to tackle drugs gangs in recent years, who work with criminal analysts, intelligence officers and partners to maximise their efforts.
The experienced team works with officers from across the force, including community policing teams and the Kent and Essex Serious Crime Directorate, as well as with partners such as the Violence and Vulnerability Unit, which brings together multiple organisations across Essex working together to share information, tackle crime and safeguard vulnerable victims.
It also works with other police forces and organisations such as the Eastern Region Serious Operations Unit, National Crime Agency and Border Force to tackle the drugs supply market at every level.
Chief Insp Basford said: “The majority of Essex residents will never be affected by drugs or violent crime and every day we’re working to keep it that way.
“Tackling violence and protecting children, vulnerable people and our communities are our top priorities and there is nowhere to hide for those criminals who try to ply their dirty trade here.
“We will take robust action against these criminal groups and any other individuals who try to fill the gap left by the networks and county lines that we dismantle.”
Robert Halfon, the MP for Harlow, said: “Drugs are the scourge of our time and thanks to an extraordinary effort by Harlow Police, they have removed a major hard drugs ring around our town. “This will have an enormous impact in reducing crime around Harlow and also the Town Centre. Congratulations to all at Harlow.”
Councillor Mark Ingall, Leader of Harlow Council, said: “This was a meticulously planned, well executed and successful operation by Essex Police.
“I am sure that all residents and businesses of Harlow will be grateful that those leading criminal activity in our town have been taken out and that police will now continue to work the case to deal with those lower in the supply chain.
“I would like to offer my congratulations to those that planned and worked on this operation and those officers who risk so much in the daily execution of their duty.
“I would also like to thank our community safety team for their help in supporting Essex Police in its preparation of this successful operation.
“We will continue to support and work closely with the police to drive out this kind of activity in our town.
“Sadly organised crime and drugs are a problem in most towns and cities in the UK not just Harlow. But thanks to the work today of Essex Police Harlow will be a safer place as a result.
“Organised crime and drugs are not welcome in our town and those involved will be found.”