How 'Sooty' met Jenny . . . and got stung

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CARLTON 'Sooty' Davis never knew what hit him. He made his weekly delivery to Jenny, one of three prostitutes who lived in a an up-market flat in Westbourne Grove in west London. She had arranged the drop by mobile phone: 'It's me, Jenny. Can you come and sort me out?'

Jenny was a good customer. She paid cash, never asked for credit. She wanted her usual; two pounds 40 wraps of crack. As Davis left the flat, police descended on him. He was arrested. Last week he began a three year jail term.

But 'Jenny', a bubbly woman, all legs, chewing gum and foul language was not really a prostitute. She, her fellow 'Toms' and their 'pimp', living in a plush flat in Hatherley Court, just off Westbourne Grove, were all undercover detectives. The flat they used to do 'trade' was monitored by a hidden video camera and microphones. The phone was bugged.

Together they collected the mobile phone numbers of crack dealers in the West London area and called them one by one, arranging deals on the street and later at the flat. They chose their words carefully, never asking for drugs directly but using phrases the dealers would understand: 'Can you sort me out?'

Word soon spread that the girls were good customers. Some dealers complained if Jenny and her friends didn't call them. The team of detectives duped the dealers right up to the moment they were arrested.

Thirty-five crack dealers were charged. Some protested but changed their pleas to guilty after seeing themselves on video selling crack to the 'girls' at the flat on at least three occasions. One defendant, on trial at Isleworth Crown Court, claimed he had only handed over the drugs to Jenny because he was attracted to her. The trial judge rejected this and the defendant changed his plea to guilty. He was sentenced to four years in jail.

Details of the 'sting' operation were revealed last week. Detective Inspector Dick Woodman, heading the operation, said demands from judges that detectives disclose the names of informants in trials of crack dealers had forced them to abandon prosecutions in the past: 'We couldn't give their names because they would have been dead the next week. We decided to set up a series of sting operations, using undercover police officers posing as buyers and high technology, video surveillance equipment, to record those operations. We were very careful to use phrases that could not be interpreted as entrapment. We made no mention of drugs until it was plain that the dealer was offering them. The results speak for themselves; 35 prosecutions, 35 successful convictions.'

Scotland Yard has set up a special unit to co-ordinate drug stings like Operation Motion. Using computer databases the unit, set up a year ago, is targeting what police believe are top level dealers. Commander John Grieve, who heads the unit, says intelligence is now the key to policing drug dealing.

Teams supplied with that intelligence are increasingly using video surveillance to target suspects. Police in King's Cross have arrested more than 300 people filmed in alleged drug deals; 18 people videod on the Mozart estate in north London were jailed for a total of 68 years; 37 people were convicted after video surveillance in Stoke Newington and 17 people await trial in south London folllowing a similar operation.

(Photograph omitted)