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7 February 2014, 07:27 | Updated: 7 February 2014, 08:07
Hampshire's Police and Crime Commissioner Simon Hayes has committed nearly two million pounds to expand the force's operation tackling drugs gangs and related violence.
Simon Hayes made the announcement to Chief Constable Andy Marsh at his Compass public accountability and scrutiny meeting earlier this week, where he gave an undertaking to commit a further £1.77m to continue the work of Operation Fortress.
It was launched in 2012 following an initial £2m investment. The PCC says the two-year project has seen considerable success in making the communities safer, especially in and around Southampton where incidents were becoming a growing concern.
Mr Hayes feels that it is vitally important to continue this crucial work in partnership with local authorities and other key stakeholders in achieving the common goals of 'Protecting People and Places'.
The new funding will be available from April and will see the initiative rolled out force wide, with the aim of developing and establishing strong partnerships similar to the model implemented in Southampton.
Simon Hayes said:
"Analysis and research conducted by the Operation Fortress team has demonstrated that a buoyant drugs market leads to a significant increase in violence. Much of this has predominantly been linked to crime gangs operating out of the capital. It is therefore essential that we continue this targeted intelligence led work to make the whole of Hampshire and the Isle of Wight a hostile place for those who ply their trade in illegal and mind altering substances on our streets.
"I have been impressed with the success of Operation Fortress under the direction and leadership of Detective Superintendent Kath Barnes and her team of dedicated officers. Through their focussed approach they have significantly reduced the risks of harm to communities, in particular the significant violence linked to drug trafficking. Working closely with partners and residents, they have helped make Southampton a much safer place. And although this is now being rolled out force wide, Southampton residents should be reassured that this work will continue."
Chief Constable Andy Marsh said:
"Operation Fortress demonstrates what we can achieve when we work together more closely as a constabulary and alongside our partner agencies towards shared goals of reducing harm to our communities and I would like to thank everyone who has played a part in the campaign so far.
"Having the team in place for a further 12 months gives us flexibility to focus on embedding the successes of the campaign throughout the organisation while work is ongoing to restructure the force."
The dedicated Operation Fortress team will continue to investigate serious drug-related violent crime in and around Southampton and their work will now also be formally extended across the force area.
Detective Superintendent Kath Barnes who leads the campaign said:
"I'd like to extend my thanks to all those agencies and police colleagues who've worked with us over the last two years to make this campaign the success that it has been and I'm looking forward to continuing with this extremely important work in protecting vulnerable people and keeping communities safe from drugs-related violence.
"The dedicated Operation Fortress team has worked hard to build links within the force, notably, for example, with the Safer Neighbourhoods team in and around Southampton to ensure our efforts to disrupt drug-related crime are sustained through community engagement.
"Likewise our work in sharing information about planned operations with our partners in community safety and drug treatment services has helped identify and deliver better support to people vulnerable to exploitation through their own drug use and so helped to reduce the demand for drugs in the long term."
Since the start of the campaign, the dedicated Operation Fortress team has arrested 341 suspects and helped to convict 66 defendants so far. Those who have received jail sentences have been put behind bars for a total of 155 years. They include:
- David Williamson, 28, of Howards Mead, Pennington, jailed for 11 years for the possession of a firearm and being concerned in the supply of a class A drug
- Myles Harris, 24, of Butcher Walk, Swanscombe, Kent, jailed for 10 years for conspiracy to supply class A drugs
- Abdullah Mohamoud, 23, Bullar Street, Southampton, jailed for eight and a half years for conspiracy to supply class A drugs
More than £150,000 has been seized from criminals through the Proceeds of Crime Act (POCA) and more than £190,000 worth of drugs taken off the streets.
Alongside the enforcement work, the team has also referred 38 people to drug treatment and support services or to offender management programmes. Through partnership working, the team has also been able to help get urgent housing moves for vulnerable people who were victims of crime or who were being exploited by organised crime groups.
As part of the aim of reducing the demand for drugs, the campaign has also helped to develop an education package for schools and colleges around Southampton that looks at the personal, social and financial consequences of taking illegal drugs and other psychoactive substances.