MORE than 250 police officers descended on Burton yesterday to carry out the biggest anti-drugs operation the town has ever seen.
Officers swooped in a series of dawn raids which netted 16 suspected ‘major dealers’ of drugs including heroin, cocaine, crack cocaine and cannabis.
The raids, part of Staffordshire Police’s Operation Nemesis anti-drugs effort, were the culmination of 10 months of planning aimed at ending a bitter ‘turf war’ which has left areas of Burton blighted by crime and antisocial behaviour.
Officers from across the county arrived in the town in a 50-strong convoy of vehicles shortly before 7am, smashing their way into the homes of suspects and taking into custody 15 men aged between 19 and 52 and a 30-year-old woman.
Chief Inspector Steve Maskrey, commander of the East Staffordshire local policing team, said he hoped the raids would end years of factional rivalry, crime and disorder and deal a hammer blow to the town’s narcotics trade.
He told the Mail: “Clearly we have had issues in Burton for some time with drug dealers who are responsible for a large amount of disruption in the community, ranging from antisocial behaviour to serious acts of violence.
“There has been a turf war between dealers and it’s taken up a lot of police hours trying to sort these issues out.
“I’m confident that this massive operation will go a long way towards stopping this type of behaviour and will take out a large proportion of drugs activity in Burton, so we can go back to community policing and doing what we’re good at - making people feel safe.”
Officers had gathered for a 5.30am briefing at the force headquarters in Stafford, travelling in convoy down the A50 and A38, pausing briefly at the Pirelli Stadium, the hub of the operation in Burton, before dispersing across the town.
Addresses were targeted in Shobnall Street, Derby Street, Grange Street, South Broadway Street and Uxbridge Street, in Burton, Goodman Street, Shakespeare Road, Foston Avenue and Denton Road, in Horninglow, and Rosliston Road, in Stapenhill.
After suspects were taken into custody for questioning, searches of the properties were carried out by scenes of crime officers and specialist search dogs.
Meanwhile, neighbourhood officers and PCSOs were later deployed to reassure residents, whose information had helped the police to identify suspects.
Ch Insp Maskrey said the operation had community support, but issued a word of caution about the prospect of fresh criminals targeting Burton.
He said: “I spoke to a number of people while the operation was ongoing who were very supportive of our activity.
“They have had to put up with people dealing drugs outside their homes and no-one deserves that.
“My concern now is that there will be a vacuum and it’s my job to make sure that isn’t filled by other drug dealers coming into the town.”