AMID the icy darkness of a midwinter morning, 17 slumbering residents of Burton were about to receive a rude awakening.
As officers gathered at Staffordshire Police&8217;s plush headquarters, inauspiciously located on an industrial estate off Stafford&8217;s Weston Road, barely a soul was to be seen braving the sub-zero temperatures.
But by the time the 250 police officers and staff tasked with carrying out Burton&8217;s biggest ever drugs crackdown emerged into the cold, their 50-strong convoy of vehicles would turn heads among commuters making their way to work.
At its head was Chief Inspector David Bird, ground commander for the latest instalment of Operation Nemesis, the force&8217;s ongoing effort to target drug dealers across Staffordshire.
The ongoing operation had run previously and successfully on a similar scale, in Stoke-on-Trent in 2007 and Tamworth in 2009.
But now, Assistant Chief Constable Jane Sawyers, told the assembled officers gathered for a 5.30am briefing: &8220;It&8217;s Burton&8217;s turn.&8221;
She ended with the cheery sign-off: &8220;We&8217;re good at this, folks. Time to be proud, to go out there and do what we do best, to take these individuals off the streets.&8221;
By &8216;these individuals&8217;, she was referring to some of Burton&8217;s suspected &8216;major drug dealers&8217;, who police believe are responsible for a large proportion of the town&8217;s narcotics trade, snoozing contentedly in the warmth of their beds &8211; but not for long.
The long line of vehicles weaved its way through leafy back lanes out of Stafford, attracting curious glances as it passed through Uttoxeter and down the A50 and A38 before heading to the rendez-vous point - the car park at Burton Albion&8217;s Pirelli Stadium.
After the briefest of pauses, the convoy split, making for the various target addresses, largely centred around the Horninglow, Shobnall and Uxbridge areas of the town.
Outside one terraced house, overlooked by a high-tech CCTV system, the police &8216;carrier&8217; deposited 10 of the force&8217;s finest.
At their head, an officer donned in full protective headgear and brandishing the &8216;enforcer&8217;, a hefty looking battering ram with which he smashed through the side door, showering shards of glass over the adjacent alleyway.
He also carried a fire extinguisher which, we are informed, is used to spray carbon dioxide in the face of and temporarily immobilise any unfriendly dogs which might lurk behind the doors of suspects&8217; homes.
On this occasion, the only such animal is the police dog which waited to be called into action, as officers, shadowy figures sillhoueted against flimsy blinds, looked around the interior of the premises, emerging around an hour later with the handcuffed suspect.
By this point, as the darkness began to give way to a pale half-light, a gaggle of onlookers had emerged from their homes to watch the unfolding spectacle and, according to the police, to congratulate them on tackling the scourge in their midst.
As scenes of crime officers, aided by specialist search dogs, combed the interior of the house, officers began to headback to the Pirelli Stadium for a warming cuppa and a debrief.
There, a fresh batch of neighbourhood &8216;bobbies&8217; and PCSOs were preparing to depart to offer reassurance to residents in affected areas.
The assistant chief constable said the operation had run smoothly, with &8216;no major problems&8217;.
She claimed residents could expect to see their quality of life improved as a result of the morning&8217;s activities.
And, at long last, an end to the &8216;blight&8217; on their lives caused by drug dealing, to which crime and antisocial behaviour are a depressingly frequent accompaniment.