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22 September 2014, 13:03 | Updated: 22 September 2014, 13:06
More than 70 people have been arrested in a police operation targeting drug gangs in Southend.
The arrests were made during two raids in July. The first targeted gangs in the area at the time while the second phase was aimed at preventing other drug dealers moving into the void left afterwards.
Officers say the gangs were using the homes of vulnerable women as the base for supplying local users, forcing them to co-operate through a mixture of fear and threats.
Chief Inspector Simon Anslow, the Southend district commander said: "On July 22 following the success of operation Erasure we saw the potential for new drug dealers moving into the town and trying to get a hold over local people. We moved proactively to focus our activity to prevent this.
"Since July 22 officers working on Op Booth have used disruptive and intrusive engagement tactics to prevent gang members from supplying drugs and moreover to safeguard the vulnerable females being targeted. The Southend Police Tactical Team have been supported by funding and additional policing resources from headquarters so that there is no let-up in our efforts.
"Through intelligence gathering and liaising with partnership agencies locations and activity of gangs dealing class A drugs has been obtained.
"Users were stopped entering or leaving the premises and dealt with positively to ensure they were discouraged from conducting business with the group. Search warrants were executed to catch dealers in possession of the drugs we believe they intended to deal in Southend.
"We are continuing to carry out this excellent work against drug dealers in Southend and we aim to give them no foot-hold and no opportunity to feel comfortable. We want them to jump at every siren and worry that every noise at the door will be the start of a journey that could ultimately see them behind bars.
"Drug use is a problem that goes beyond the sole responsibility of the police to solve; it is society’s problem and solutions can’t be found in enforcement alone. That said. I know that the Police need to be part of a solution, to reduce the impact on communities and minimise the harms caused to everyone involved. Realistically, we won’t be able to prevent every drug deal or stop every drug-related assault in the town, but that won’t stop us trying, so we will continue to work day and night to make Southend safer for everyone.
"If anyone does see drug dealing in progress please call us immediately on 999. If you have less urgent information please call Essex Police on 101 or call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555111."