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Police carrying out the opening phase of a two-year operation combating drug-related violent crime in Southampton have executed a total of nine warrants and arrested three people.
Detectives tell us the recent murder in Chilworth, a multiple stabbing in the Cranbury Avenue area and a man who was shot in the legs in Vanguard Road earlier this year were all part of the same problem.
31 officers will be dedicated to Operation Fortress, which has been given £2m worth of funding.
90 officers including staff from the newly-established Op Fortress team, local officers, specialist teams from the Force Support Unit, Dog Support Unit and an eye in the sky in the form of the South East Air Support Unit helicopter, took part in the launch op in Bevois Valley – which targeted people suspected of being involved in drugs trafficking and associated violent criminality.
The three people arrested were detained on suspicion of possession of Class A and Class B drugs, and two other people have been offered drug referral treatment.
Detective Inspector Gary Towse, from Op Fortress, said:
“Today is about making our presence known to those who come into Southampton to deal drugs, building an intelligence picture, and starting to disrupt activity.
“We are confident that we have disrupted a significant amount of drug supply, and have actively responded to intelligence from members of the community about people dealing on the streets. We have officers out there now ensuring this doesn’t happen.”
The project is led by Detective Chief Inspector Kath Barnes: “Today’s operation is intended not only to target those associated with drug-related violence but to announce our presence. Operation Fortress has started and we are going to make life very unpleasant for those intent on brining drugs and violence to our city,” said DCI Barnes.
“By taking this co-ordinated approach and forging strong partnership links, we are determined to not only to target those committing this serious crime and but also to reduce demand for controlled drugs and prevent drug misuse through early intervention. If we can reduce the market, Southampton becomes a much less attractive prospect for criminal enterprise.
“Our intention is to make Southampton a hostile environment for those involved in this criminal enterprise and to send a clear message out to would-be newcomers that Hampshire is not a good place for them to ply their trade.
“Enforcement activity such as today’s high profile police operation and a wide variety of other tactics available to us will be maximised to target and disrupt individuals and groups who clearly demonstrate a propensity for using extreme violence or weapons to threaten and intimidate.
“Communicating direct with the community is also a vital element in preventing this violent culture from becoming embedded in the city and building recovery amongst those communities already affected by it. You can expect the Operation Fortress brand to be seen across the city, and we want people to get to know it and trust it.
“Together with our partner agencies, we will work amongst the community to build their confidence in the authorities’ ability to tackle this problem.
“One of the key issues we know surrounds drug-related violence is witnesses within the community being scared to come forward and speak to us for fear of reprisal or that they may become victims of violence themselves.
“By working closely together, we want to show members of the public that we can help them, that they don’t need to be frightened anymore, that they can speak to us – and help us shut the door on these people of violence who thrive on creating a culture of fear. We are determined to take that fear out of those communities.”