Police cracking down on class A drug dealing in Hemel Hempstead are raiding homes in a bid to disrupt Somalian suppliers infiltrating the town from London.
Officers from the town’s police station have been working on long-term Operation Calamus, which uses covert as well as overt methods of tracking down the drug lords, some of whom have muscled their way into the homes of vulnerable people including drug addicts and the mentally ill in Hemel Hempstead.
Dealers, who are suspected to be involved in the supply of heroin and crack cocaine, have had a base in the town for around three months.
The nucleus of affected addresses is now the cause of a lot of problems in the community, such as anti-social behaviour and violent crime.
Herts Police say they have a number of target individuals and a plan in place, and are searching the properties to gather intelligence and get a bigger picture of the problem facing otherwise ordinary neighbourhoods.
Calamus is part of a wider force initiative – Operation Scorpion – to drive down crime and make Herts a ‘hostile’ place for all offenders.
Chief Insp Glen Channer said: “Raids are one of many tactics we are using. It is a more overt and aggressive tactic, but we want people to see that we are taking action.
“Lots of work goes on in the background, but this way we are out in the community and showing people we are responding to their concerns.
“We want to disrupt these dealers and make this a hostile place for them to operate. If they don’t get arrested during these warrants, they will be arrested by other means.”
The force is also working with housing and anti-social behaviour teams at Dacorum Borough Council to help tackle the problem and ensure that people are no longer able to take unfair advantage of their right to a home.
Many of the eight warrants carried out last week were on shared houses – but the homes and people inside are searched for drugs and any clues which could bring police closer to the criminals at large.
Chief Insp Channer explained: “On Monday, we broke into a house and found people from London with criminal records and gave them a warning. By Wednesday, it was clear they had decided to ignore our warning so we raided again.
“We are employing all the legal powers afforded to us to go straight back in to show them we mean what we say.”
The main reason behind the warrants – which involve a surprise appearance at a house and breaking in the door with specialist equipment – is in fact to promote public safety.
Police are acting on calls from people frustrated with the nuisance caused by underground drug dealing.
Once a raid has begun, the safer neighbourhood teams visit nearby houses to tell worried tenants what is going on, reassure them and hear any of their concerns.
The teams also arrange for the repair of any damaged doors and point any vulnerable people living in the homes towards other organisations so they can get the support they need.
While no arrests were made last week, the raids are likely to continue and, as Det Sgt Craig Flint says, the aim is to disrupt drug lords and gather intelligence.
He said: “The fight against drugs is a difficult one – it hasn’t been won yet and I don’t think it will be. But this operation is not secretive, we are coming through your door and we will keep coming. If you are dealing drugs, be scared.
“Why should ordinary people be afraid in their own communities? We want to make sure that fear is in the right place – criminals should be scared of us.”
Det Sgt Flint urges anyone with suspicions about drug dealing in their neighbourhood to call police on 101 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111 – and he promises calls will be taken seriously.
Additionally, if you or anyone you know has an addiction to drugs and would like help, call Frank on 0800 77 66 00 or visit www.talktofrank.com