THEY were out to show that they mean business – and last Wednesday morning, more than 130 police officers certainly put on a show of drug-busting determination in Basingstoke.
People connected to high-end drug dealing and drug-related violence were the targets as scores of officers swooped on six homes in the Popley area of town.
At the same time, officers from Hampshire Constabulary raided homes in Bracknell and Winchester linked to the supply of Class A drugs such as heroin and cocaine in Basingstoke.
As the The Gazette went to press, officers had arrested nine people and seized suspected Class A and B drugs and drug-related cash from the homes.
The intelligence-led day-of-action was part of Operation Fortress – the Hampshire force’s county-wide campaign targeting the supply of Class A drugs and associated violence.
Inspector Paul Maginnis, Operation Fortress lead at Basingstoke police station, said: “This was us saying we mean business.
“Clearly, there are drugs out on the streets and we are combating those who are continuing to supply them across Basingstoke.
“Drugs are not welcome here, and people who actively supply drugs in Basingstoke will be targeted robustly.”
Officers, including those from the force’s specialist Force Support Unit as well as the National Crime Agency, met early yesterday in the car park opposite the police station, in London Road.
By 6.30am, they were positioned outside the targeted houses, and in some cases, they forced their way in using battering rams.
Neighbours and early-morning dog walkers looked on as the officers carried out their work, arresting those suspected of drug-dealing, and searching their homes.
Later in the day, officers and police community support officers carried out reassurance patrols, handing out leaflets about the aims of Operation Fortress.
The raids in Popley took place in Pitcairn Close, Ilsley Road, Milton Close, Shelley Close, Bourdillon Gardens and Marlowe Close.
Six men from Basingstoke – a 19-year-old, two 23-year-olds, a 25-year-old, a 27-year-old and a 28-year-old – along with a 19-year-old man from Winchester, were arrested on suspicion of conspiracy to supply Class A drugs.
Two women from Basingstoke, aged 19 and 20, were also arrested on suspicion of money laundering offences.
Operation Fortress started two years ago, targeting drug-related violence in Southampton, but it has since been rolled out across the county.
It involves work with partner agencies, including housing associations and the Safer North Hampshire partnership, which includes representatives from Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council.
Insp Maginnis said: “We find in Basingstoke that we suffer with people coming down from London and supplying Class A drugs, and that is being tackled with Operation Fortress.
“But today was about focusing on those people from Basingstoke who are involved in the supply of Class A drugs.”
He appealed for anyone who had concerns about the use and supply of Class A drugs to contact Basingstoke police station on 101.