RAIDS SNARE 38 'MR BIGS' OF DRUGS WORLD
Police yesterday swooped on what they claimed were some of the biggest drug dealers in the west of Scotland. More than 200 officers raided 34 homes and arrested 38 suspects across South Lanarkshire in one of the biggest operations against major drug gangs in the region's history.
All but one of the people arrested is today scheduled to appear at sheriff courts in Hamilton, Glasgow and Lanark.
The raids came after months of community tip-offs and a detailed intelligence gathering about the men and women trading heroin and cocaine in the area. advertisement
Chief Superintendent Tim Love, the man in charge of policing South Lanarkshire, said the operation, dubbed Robust, was targeted at the "Mr Bigs" rather than seizing product.
He said: "Certainly a number of them are the main dealers in South Lanarkshire. We have been working on this for quite a few months, doing the kind of work that is invisible to the public." We have been working on this operation for quite a few months
Officers raided more properties than anticipated as they followed new leads to find individuals who were not at home. Houses "visited" were in Hamilton, Rutherglen, East Kilbride and Lanark. Most of those targeted were caught, Mr Love said.
The operation involved police from every one of Strathclyde Police's nine divisions as well as specialist officers, including the dogs unit. Police did not say what value of drugs they seized: the primary objective was to catch individuals, not their goods.
Mr Love has been running the South Lanarkshire police division since just before Christmas. But he knows the area well, having served as a detective and beat officer 21 years ago.
Last night he visited some of the arrested suspects in cells across South Lanarkshire. He said: "There are a couple who will bring back memories. When you hear their names you recognise them right away. It's a shame they are still involved in crime after all these years."
Drugs was barely an issue in South Lanarkshire 20 years ago. It is now. Last year, class A drugs, including heroin, were believed to be responsible for the deaths of 21 people in South Lanarkshire. Another 10 deaths were chalked up to drugs this year.
Strathclyde's chief constable, Sir Willie Rae, last week said there were 200 drug deaths in the wider region in the 2006-2007 financial year. "Drugs are now the main issue, as everybody is aware," Mr Love said. "I know enforcement can only tackle a part of the problem of drugs and that is why we have created links with our partners to ensure intervention programmes are considered.
"This is by no means a one-off, but part of an ongoing drive to crack down on individuals that make a misery of the lives of others." [/FONT]