08:00 Saturday 26 January 2013

'We're in charge and these are our streets'

Written byTIM FLETCHER

LITTLE over a week after Burton awoke to the biggest anti-drugs operation in the town’s history, officers were back on the streets in force yesterday.

Mail reporter TIM FLETCHER and photographer SIMON DEACON joined Staffordshire Police in their latest attempt to target the town’s drug trade.

IF Operation Nemesis – Ring Of Steel sounds like a high-octane movie sequel, Burton’s top cop is on hand to provide a speech straight out of Hollywood.

Chief Inspector Steve Maskrey, commander of East Staffordshire local policing team, is briefing the 30 officers about to embark on the latest phase of the town’s anti-drugs tour de force.

He hails the success of the most dramatic phase of the operation, which resulted in 16 people being brought before the courts and removed those he says ‘wreaked havoc on our streets for months’, and says today’s initiative is about ensuring fresh dealers aren’t allowed to enter the breach.

“We are here today to make sure those people who come into East Staffordshire intent on committing crime get the message that they’re not welcome here,” he says.

“If there are people coming in and thinking they’re going to fill the void, the message is: ‘No you’re not – we are’.”

He tells the officers: “Enjoy yourself out there. The public want you there and they enjoy us being there. So spread the word – we are in charge and these are our streets.”

After Sgt Bob Champeau, who has spent two months planning this phase of the operation, assigns patrols to locations around the town, it’s time to hit the streets.

First destination - Burton Railway Station, where commuters idly waiting for the delayed 11.21 to Birmingham appear slightly startled by the sudden arrival of nine police officers, a portable metal detector and a mobile police station on the car park.

Sergeant Kath Taylor, from the force’s tactical planning unit, tells the Mail: “We’re here to provide high-visibility reassurance to people passing through the station, to show that the police are out in numbers in Burton and making people feel safe.

“And if there are any bad guys in among these people, we will deal with them.”

Among the waiting passengers is young Pole Sebastian Borowiec who, along with his girlfriend, consents to be searched after his demeanour apparently raises the suspicions of officers, although no drugs are found.

“It was quite a surprise and a bit scary, even when you don’t have any drugs,” he tells the Mail. “But they’ve been okay with us and if something like this means bad people are going to jail, it has to be a good thing.”

On to Stapenhill, where, after a patrol’s automatic number plate recognition (ANPR) camera picks up a van with no insurance, the vehicle is found to contain around £300 worth of cannabis vegetation, scales and tools used to grind down the drug for use.

The driver has come by his illicit stash as a direct result of last week’s Nemesis raids, according to PC Mick Barnett, of the force’s road policing team.

He says: “This individual said that because of last week’s operation, he was offered the cannabis cheap, as the dealer wanted to get rid of it.”

The man is arrested, later released on police bail pending further enquiries.

Back at the police station, a taxi driver has been apprehended, the result of intelligence received that Burton drug dealers had been using town cabs to ferry around narcotics.

PC Adam Wood says: “The driver was stopped and asked if his vehicle could be checked. He was acting suspiciously and there was a smell of cannabis.”

As the driver is taken away for a strip search, his car is ‘swabbed’ using a high-tech £20,000 scanner capable of detecting a variety of controlled drugs.

While no such trace is found, as the Mail goes to press the driver remains in custody pending further enquiries.

With four arrests, eight fixed penalty notices issues and 12 vehicles seized, the force is in no doubt that the operation has been a success.

And if nothing else, another high-profile, high-visibility effort ensures that the anti-drugs message is one that cannot be ignored.

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