Police vow to step up drugs campaign
More than 510 homes have been searched by police battling to stamp out drugs in Stoke-on-Trent and officers have pledged the war against dealers will continue in 2009. Crime reporter Aimi Moores looks at what has been achieved so far.
DRUG dealers have been warned that police will continue to hunt them down in 2009.
KNOCK, KNOCK: Operation Nemesis raided a street in Little Chell in September.
Between its launch in September 2007 and the latest figures being released on December 3, more than 510 search warrants have been executed across Stoke-on-Trent division, with around 300 arrests being made.
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Officers have seized Class A drugs with a street value of more than £400,000, around £120,000 in cash, and recovered more than 150 items of stolen property.
During the raids, a large number of weapons including firearms and stun guns have also been found.
Nemesis launched on September 13 last year, with an army of 400 officers carrying out raids across Staffordshire and Cheshire.
Since then, there have been two other headline arrest days, one in November last year and another in January.
These three days alone resulted in 82 further arrests and have seen convicted offenders receive a total of 160 years in prison, 580 hours of community service, 10 years in suspended sentences and numerous drug rehabilitation programmes.
Superintendent Bernie O'Reilly, from Stoke-on-Trent division, said the force was delighted with the success of the operation.
He said: "It has been fantastically successful so far, not just looking at the statistics but also from the feedback we have had from the public.
"People have been telling us how pleased they are with what we are doing, and the amount of intelligence they are providing has been incredible.
"The ambition for 2009 is to be even more successful.
"Nemesis is daily business for us – it is here to stay."
Supt O'Reilly, pictured, said he believed Nemesis was having the desired effect in the city.
He said: "I think it's sent shockwaves through the criminal community. The amount of drugs and cash seized shows we are targeting the right people.
"Having arrested a large number of dealers, there is no evidence that more are coming into the city.
"Nemesis has affected the availability of drugs on the street, and we are trying to steer users towards treatment."
The new year will also see more work being done to strip dealers of their assets.
Supt O'Reilly said: "We have recently set up a financial investigation unit, and what we want to be doing now is targeting assets. The team has got the skills and the capacity to bring a new dimension to this, and people dealing drugs will be stripped of their houses, cars and cash.
"We are also using civil enforcement to close crack houses, and we will be doing more of that in the coming year. We could carry out more arrest days – all the tactics we have used before are still available to us.
"I think the fact Nemesis is happening every day has got drug dealers looking over their shoulders."
Community groups in the city have been behind Operation Nemesis from the start.
Jim Gibson, chairman of Chell Heath Residents' Association, said: "It's a much needed operation and I'm pleased to hear it's going to carry on next year.
"Drug dealers are the ruin of most societies and Nemesis sends out a message that if you deal drugs, you will get caught and punished.
"It has certainly made a difference in this area."
Malcolm Barber, from Portland and Cobridge Residents' Association, said: "I'm certainly glad to hear Nemesis will continue – it has made an impact. I don't get as many phone calls from people concerned about suspicious activity at properties. We pass on all the information we get to the police and they do act on it, although it takes time to gather the evidence they need."