MORE than 50 people have been arrested by a police squad set up to tackle drug dealing in Portsmouth.
The team, which is running for six months, launched in January and has seized more than £30,000 worth of class A drugs and £15,000 in cash from the streets.
Weapons including knives, asps, a knuckle duster and an imitation firearm have also been seized by police.
Dealers from London have been removed from homes of several vulnerable people in the city.
Hampshire police said eight children and two people with mental health problems have been protected from exploitation.
Detective Inspector Linda Howard, who leads the team, said: ‘The drugs-related harm team was put together to tackle drug networks causing the most harm to our local communities.
‘Within the first two months we have disrupted numerous people who are linked to gang crime from London and want to reinforce our message that Portsmouth is a hostile place to deal drugs.
‘I would urge local drug users who are being exploited by drug dealers to contact us so that we can support and safeguard against these gangs.’
Jim Pegler, force lead for drug-related harm and chief inspector for Portsmouth, said: ‘We will continue to tackle drug dealing and its associated violence in Portsmouth by disrupting drug dealers’ activities and reduce the demand for them in the city; we are determined that people who bring drugs into Portsmouth feel that they are at constant risk of being stopped, arrested and generally disrupted.
‘Drugs like crack cocaine and heroin do tremendous harm to the people whose lives are blighted by addiction.
‘The gangs that sell these drugs often exploit vulnerable people as part of their business, including using children to run drugs or by taking over the homes of vulnerable people to deal from.
‘We are sending a clear, strong message that we will identify the networks that cause the most harm and dismantle them.
‘We will be relentless in tackling people who bring this misery to Portsmouth and we will continue to work in partnership to protect vulnerable people and children.’
More than 50 drug-related crimes were reported to police in December last year, according to the latest publicly-available police figures.
The team was set up to tackle drug-related crime and the supply of drugs in the city after top police officers admitted there had been an increase in supply.
But it comes as police have confirmed they are probing drug links into the shooting of Jamie Sibley. The 34-year-old was shot in Crookhorn, who had to undergo major reconstructive surgery at Southampton General Hospital.
Separately, police are probing a drugs link to a stabbing of two men in Somers Road, Somers Town, on Friday.
One man suffered life-threatening injuries in the attack.
Charity welcomes police crackdown
A CHARITY working with addicts has welcomed police action to clamp down on the drug supply in the city.
Trevor Pickup is chief executive at the The Society of St James, which operates a rehabilitation centre and accommodation in Portsmouth.
Speaking to The News he said: ‘We’re very pleased that the police are taking substance misuse issues seriously.
‘We’re very concerned about the welfare of people taking drugs.
‘If the supply of drugs was made difficult that would be good news for everyone.
‘It’s very encouraging that the police are being sympathetic to victims that get tied up in all of this, particularly the young forced into this.’
The organisation runs the community day rehabilitation, for people who are unable to attend residential drug rehabilitation courses.
It also runs skills and social groups, along with peer support groups and recovery groups. The organisation has operated in Portsmouth for a few years.
Mr Pickup said cuckooing – where a drug dealer takes over the control of a property from vulnerable addicts – can be a major problem.
However, he said it was not a problem in any of the charity’s properties.
‘We are aware of it happening in other places,’ Mr Pickup said.
‘It’s very difficult for the people who do lose their tenancy.
‘People who are under pressure need to reveal to their landlords what’s going on.
‘We feel that they’re losing control of their tenancy but when we turn up they say “it’s all fine”. It’s a real issue.’
Addicts can contact the organisation’s Recovery Hub on (023) 9229 4573 or email firstname.lastname@example.org for support services.
They offer counselling, therapy, substitute prescribing, community rehabilitation, detox and needle exchange.
Another confidential needle exchange, available across Portsmouth, can be contacted on (023) 9285 1999.
POLICE have said the public can help fight drug crime in the city.
‘We are keen to hear from anyone who is concerned about illegal drugs or drug-related crime in their neighbourhood,’ a Hampshire police spokeswoman said.
Police said signs to watch out for were:
n A sudden increase in visitors to a house or flat and people only staying for a very short time.
n Short exchanges between small groups of people at or close to a flat or house.
n Residents leaving a flat or house on numerous occasions throughout the day and returning a short time later.
n People loitering in an area and using their mobile phones frequently.
n New-looking or hire cars parked outside a house or flat that wouldn’t normally be there, and being driven by somebody that you wouldn’t normally associate with driving that style of car.
If you have any concerns, call police on 101 or 999 if a crime is in progress.
You can also email in confidence to email@example.com. Alternatively, call the anonymous Crimestoppers charity on 0800 500 111.