Violent and abusive drug dealers exploiting children were arrested in early morning police raids this week.
Thousands of Met Police officers took part in targeting dangerous criminal gangs who were using teenagers to move and sell drugs across ‘county lines’.
Sixty-seven dealers were arrested across west London, charged with more than 200 offences.
“We will not tolerate crime in this borough,” said Cllr Stephen Cowan, Leader of Hammersmith & Fulham Council. “Especially when young people are being trapped and enslaved into a life of drug dealing.
“These arrests will see the dealers sent to jail while the young people – who have been callously exploited to do the dirty work for these gangs – will be given a new start in life. We must stop this cycle of violence and abuse.”
The operation took months to plan and required 2,775 officers and staff from across London. With the help of the council and local communities, the police targeted offenders believed to have a ‘significant impact’ in peddling drugs in H&F.
The police have linked the suspects to more than 860 local crimes – including violence, weapon offences and discharge of firearms.
The raids have seen 18 young people taken into custody. All the teenagers were taken to the Met’s safeguarding custody facility, and will be offered help from the council and other community organisations. The goal is to divert these offenders from crime in the future.
These 18 teenagers have already come to the attention of police more than 470 times in the past year – usually after being reported missing by their families.
“Safeguarding young people is our number one priority. And we are determined to protect our local children from these preying drug dealers,” Cllr Cowan added.
The raids were part of the Met Police’s Operation Puglia – the largest-ever effort launched by the police to tackle drug dealers who are exploiting vulnerable young people through organised crime.
Officers funded by Hammersmith & Fulham Council took part in the raids. The council has increased its funding to put 46 police officers on the street – the most ever funded in the council’s history and across London – which is in direct response to residents’ concerns about crime.
The police said the operation targeted ‘men of violence’ and their associates who are known to be ‘habitual knife carriers’ and who are ‘involved in exploitation of vulnerable people’.
Met Police Det Supt Raffaele D’Orsi – who led Operation Puglia – said: “This is a large and complex enquiry that is removing violent and dangerous individuals and groups from the communities that they are abusing.
“This is one of the largest investigations and numbers of arrests that the Met Police has ever undertaken. The message to those carrying weapons, or involved in violent crime or drug dealing, is simple: We are here to help you out of this way of life, but if you choose not to take this help, we know where you live and we will come and arrest you to protect our communities from you.”
Met Police units from Kensington & Chelsea, Trident and the Territorial Support Group and the City of London Police were also involved.
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