Crackdown! Police officers mount huge drug swoop

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The Independent Online

Police today swooped on a busy shopping street as part of a major clampdown on crack cocaine dealers in north-west London.

Scores of officers swarmed down the notorious street, Church Road, in Harlesden, which is used as a base for drug dealers.

The street is so well known that addicts queue up to be served by dealers on the corners, police sources said.

Teams of police cadets led by officers from Brent Police and the Territorial Support Group, carried out searches of vehicles and other "street hides" looking for illegal materials.

The searches were the second phase of Operation Soto which has so far seen 12 people charged with supplying class A drugs following 18 months of gathering information about several criminal networks in North London.

Earlier in the day more than 100 officers swooped on 12 addresses in Brent and Enfield arresting 10 people on suspicion of supplying crack cocaine.

Yesterday a further eight people were arrested on suspicion of supplying cannabis as part of the same operation.

Last month police teams targeted the main suppliers of several crack cocaine and heroin networks after undercover stings in which police posed as drug dealers to arrest three men in the swoop.

The latest raids were a bid to "take out" street level dealers involved in the network.

Superintendent Matthew Gardner said: "Phase one was the main suppliers of these dealers - this is going to take out street level dealers.

"It is going to allow people to do their daily business in the area without being offered drugs.

"I'm not naive to think it's going to stop overnight - we will be continuing in the future to clean up these areas.

"It is a big operation. It is about giving the community their streets back."

One of those arrested in dawn raids was a 17-year-old boy who had been arrested previously in last month's operation.

The teenager, who cannot be named for legal reasons, had been bailed after being arrested on suspicion of supplying class A drugs - the same offence he was arrested for today.

During the raids, police also recovered a quantity of class A drugs.

Brent Borough Commander, Mark Toland, said: "Our community told us that drug dealing in this area was affecting their daily lives and gave us the information that has enabled us to launch this operation.

"This demonstrates that with our residents' support we can arrest the criminals responsible, and make life safer and more pleasant for those that live, work or visit the borough."

Chief Superintendent Toland said people buying drugs would queue along Church Road to wait to be served by dealers.

He said: "They queue up and down here. This is an open street market - there is nowhere like this in Brent. Drug dealers come here to get customers and people come here to buy.

"That is why we have done this. We are never going back (to how it was). We've got to make sure other dealers don't come back in.

"We won't allow it to go back to what it was."