Weeding out the drug trade in Weymouth- special report

Police Class

The following piece was written and printed in the Dorset Echo as a result of  ‘Operation Champion’ which was launched across Dorset to combat pervasive drug dealing. This particular operation was successful.

But what of the pervasive problem with drugs in Poole? On arriving in Poole we lived next door to a flourishing drugs dealer about whom nothing was done, although he was reported to police any number of times.

The line taken by Dorset Police is that the drugs problem is ‘from out of town’ brought in predominately by Blacks, Somali’s and London Gangs. There is barely a mention of the small time drug dealers from Liverpool and Manchester who having tried and failed to set up business in Bournemouth, then turn up in Poole.

Nor is there any mention of the individual who was once reputed to have run the drugs scene in Bournemouth and who, some suggest, via certain family members, still does. This individual, having successfully sponsored the current Dorset Police Crime Commissioner (to all intents and purposes) now resides in Spain. He is considered to be such a ‘Dorset Legend’ that to this day he is spoken of (by some) in ‘glowing’ terms.

 

WE HAVE been sitting in a car in a residential street in Westham for nearly 10 minutes, waiting for armed police to arrive.

This will be the first of a series of raids by Dorset Police during a day of action for Operation Champion.

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Getting to Weymouth HQ early in the morning, we were eventually allowed into the briefing meeting where dozens of officers gathered round to be talked through the plan of action for the raids.

We were briefed on locations, suspected occupants and methods of entry – one of which even included postman disguises.

Officers were given details of any risk factors associated with suspects, including firearms, needle use or medical conditions, before teams headed out.

It was easy to see how important intelligence is to police operations.

Being aware of the risks meant officers could plan ahead and know what to expect when they went through the doors of the target properties, not to mention enabling them to avoid possible injury.

At the location of the first raid, a police van and two police cars appeared from around the corner.

Over a dozen officers, including armed police and specially-trained dog handlers, hop out of the vehicles and quietly run in a line up to the door of the property which is about to be raided.

When officers can’t get the key to turn in the front door we assume it will be battered down.

However, the officers instead make their way round to the rear of the property and they gain access by breaking the door down.

I stand waiting for news of any arrests while officers in gloves methodically search the building high and low for any evidence of drug dealing.

Every so often officers go in and out of the building or a window opens to be searched for drugs concealed in the window frame.

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As a result of the day’s activities, four arrests were made at three properties in Hereford Road, Dorset Close and Norfolk Road in Weymouth.
Weymouth and Portland Neighbourhood Inspector Pete Browning, who has overall responsibility for Operation Champion, explained the scheme doesn’t just focus on disrupting the drugs network alone.

As part of the operation there are distinct branches of prevention, enforcement intelligence and reassurance.

Following the morning raids, evidence and information is passed on to detective teams.

Insp Browning said: “We want people to see that when the reports come in we are looking into it.

“We have an analyst that sits and reviews the intelligence from the community; we have officers out [on the streets] and in plain clothes. There are also a number of other techniques we can employ.”

He explained Dorset Police wanted to raise awareness of ‘cuckooing’ crime in the area, whereby drug dealers befriend vulnerable people and then move into their home, taking it over and turning it into a drugs den.

“Over the last year we have seen a reduction in street dealing, and a lot of it is dealing from houses.

“We would encourage people to keep an eye out for vulnerable neighbours and elderly relatives,” he said.

“Drug dealers will operate from houses where they have no previous links.

“If you start seeing people arriving who aren’t local to the area or you see lots of different people arriving in lots of different vehicles [report it] and we will take it into account.”

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The operation has already been successful, he added, having lead to a number of arrests for possession and intent to supply drugs, as well as seizures of significant amounts of cash under the Proceeds of Crime Act.

“There is some really good legislation [we can use] which isn’t necessarily linked to drugs, like ASBOs, so some big offenders are now not allowed within the boundaries of Dorset, so now we can stop them just for being in the county,” he said.

“A Somalian male was a major player in an organised crime group in Somalia. He was given a criminally-sought ASBO excluding him from Dorset, and he has also been banned from entering Devon and Cornwall.”

 

Meanwhile, for the second part of the day of action police officers moved on to Weymouth Train Station and the town’s Park District to conduct drugs searches. Uniformed and plain clothes officers were waiting at the station on the look-out for any suspicious activity.

Individuals were sniffed by a police dog as they came off the train, and those suspected of possessing drugs were stopped and searched.

We were told about the complicated training many of Dorset Police’s sniffer dogs have to undergo, as a ‘passive’ sniffer dog was sourced from outside Dorset Police because officers required an animal trained specifically in the detection of drugs ‘in passing’.

Everyone involved in operations does an important but risky job. One dog handler said even the animals can be put at risk if their location is revealed – death threats have been made against sniffer dogs in the past.

Reassuring members of the public that all reports are taken seriously, Inspector Browning said: “Please report information, no matter how small. You are never going to be thought of as stupid.

For more ‘glowing’ local stories try the following hyper-link: http://www.exposedpolice.com/

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