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10 September 2014, 11:27 | Updated: 30 March 2016, 13:50
Eight people have been arrested, including two from Portsmouth, as police target a network of drug dealers using children to sell crack cocaine and heroin.
Police have carried out a series of dawn raids across the UK this morning (Wednesday 10 September) in a major intelligence-led operation targeting an organised criminal network.
Those targeted in today's operation are believed to have trafficked young girls and boys to transport Class A drugs to areas in Hampshire and Kent.
This operation is part of the Met's wider ongoing crackdown on gang crime in London and was made possible through a partnership with Lewisham Council and the support from the Home Office-led Ending Gang and Youth Violence frontline team.
A total of 11 warrants were executed from 05:00hrs. Three on Brownlow Close, Crabbe Court and St Chads Avenue, in Portsmouth; three in Honor Oak Road, Annesley Road and Maiden House in Lewisham; one in Valleyfield Road, Lambeth; one in Lordship Lane, Haringey; one in Bramley Hill, Croydon; two in Wadden Hall, Petham and Kings Road, Aylesham in Canterbury; and one at Trinity Gardens, Folkestone, Kent.
Eight people have been arrested on suspicion of conspiracy to supply class A drugs, inciting supply of class A drugs, child trafficking and money laundering. These include four men aged 18 (Lewisham), 20 (Haringey), 32 (Kent) and 42 (Hampshire) and a 31 year-old woman (Hampshire). A 20 year-old man, a 15 year-old youth and a 36 year-old woman were produced from prison and arrested.
Officers have so far recovered a large quantity of crack cocaine and what is believed to be a press used to package large quantities of drugs. They have also seized approximately £1,500 in cash under the Proceeds of Crime Act from an address in Petham, Canterbury.
The search warrants were carried out by around 250 officers, led by the Trident Central Gangs Unit and assisted by Lewisham's Gangs Unit, the Met's Territorial Support Group (TSG) and colleagues from Hampshire Police and Kent Police. The operation was also supported by officers from the Met's Dogs Unit, Sexual Offences, Exploitation and Child Abuse Command, Central Criminal Finances Team and Safer Neighbourhoods Teams.
Searches are ongoing.
Detective Superintendent Tim Champion, Trident Gang Crime Command:
"Today's activity has focused on criminals who have used young girls and boys to transport drugs on their behalf into Hampshire and Kent.
"This is the result of Trident's continued work with borough and UK colleagues to target the most 'high risk' offenders to keep communities, young people and on this occasion young girls and boys, in London safe.
"Today's operation should serve as a clear message to those who think they are above the law. If you use young people to support your criminal activity - we will focus our efforts on you. You will be caught, you will be arrested and you will be placed before the courts.
"We will continue to listen to Londoners and our partners to ensure we are tackling the right people and making a difference to the quality of life of those who live and work in the capital.
"Our work is not just about enforcement and Trident alongside local officers, work closely with key partners to offer chances to gang members to leave the criminal gang lifestyle behind them."
Detective Chief Inspector Kevin Dennis from Hampshire Constabulary said:
"We welcome these raids today as the result of four months of work with Trident. We indentified that drug gangs from London were sending young people into Portsmouth to deal. These young people are themselves victims and we have taken steps to safeguard them and to work with them.
"We want to send a strong message to the London drugs gangs-Hampshire is not a soft touch, we will pursue you if you deal in our area and we will put you before the courts."
Working closely with local boroughs, Trident aims to tackle gang criminality in London by effective enforcement, suppression and proactive policing, working with partners to prevent offending and build safer communities.
If you have any information about gang crime or those involved call Crimestoppers - an independent charity - anonymously on 0800 555 111. In an emergency always dial 999.