New police squad tackling drug dealers coming to Portsmouth warns: We’ll catch you

Chief Inspector Jim Pegler
Chief Inspector Jim Pegler

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DEALERS travelling to the Portsmouth area to peddle drugs and exploit vulnerable addicts are being warned by police: We will catch you.

Senior police officers spoke to The News as a 10-strong team yesterday started a six-month operation to root out drug traffickers.

I want the message to go out there that this team is in place, that if you come and deal drugs in Portsmouth, or exploit people, that chances are we’ll hear about it and will be paying you a visit

Detective Inspector Linda Howard

In turn, officers hope to cut shoplifting, burglaries and vehicle crime carried out by addicts funding their habit.

Within hours of Detective Inspector Linda Howard drawing her team together for the first time, two people were arrested as cocaine and cannabis were seized from a city address.

DI Howard told The News: ‘I want the message to go out there that this team is in place, that if you come and deal drugs in Portsmouth, or exploit people, the chances are we’ll hear about it and will be paying you a visit.

She added: ‘We’ll make it hostile for you – we’ll be continuing with search warrants. We’ll be acting robustly on intelligence that comes into us.’

Chief Inspector Jim Pegler, tactical lead for drug-related harm for the force, added: ‘It’s about us recognising we’ve got a problem and putting some resources in place to uplift the deterrent.

‘We’ll be using all intelligence and information to work out which networks pose the most harm to people in Portsmouth and focussing our efforts, and disrupting and dismantling those that deliberately target young people and try and use them as drug runners.’

The unit is targeting dealers coming from London and elsewhere to the city to sell hard drugs. Along with raiding addresses linked to drug-dealing, the team will:

- Target dealers occupying vulnerable people’s homes in ‘cuckooing’, a continuation of a scheme run last year.

- Expose gangs exploiting children by enlisting them as runners.

Operation Fortress, which started in Southampton tackling drug-related crime, was rolled out to Portsmouth and the rest of Hampshire in 2014.

But police say this drive will allow DI Howard, a sergeant and eight constables to create ‘momentum’. When the team finishes in June, its work will be returned to local teams.

Superintendent Will Schofield, district commander for Portsmouth, said other teams were working ‘at capacity’ reacting to crime as it was reported.

‘To get a bit of extra resource that isn’t day-to-day resource that can concentrate on this will give us the momentum for a few months,’ Supt Schofield said.

The team covers the city and Hampshire police’s Eastern Area, including Fareham, Havant and Gosport.

Supt Schofield added: ‘Certain acquisitive crime types such as shoplifting, theft from motor vehicle, some burglaries, have links to drug use. So by trying to work with those drug users and to disrupt the support, we would hope to reduce some of those crime types.’