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Last Updated: Wednesday, 25 April 2007, 11:30 GMT 12:30 UK
Raids target Jamaican drugs gang
Drugs raid on Teesside
Police say the raids "struck at the heart of a lucrative drugs network"
More than 400 police officers have raided homes across England in a bid to disrupt an international drugs trade.

Operation Sabre, led by Cleveland Police, targeted a network ferrying crack cocaine from Jamaica via London for distribution in the North East.

Dawn raids were carried out in London and Teesside, with properties in the West Midlands, North Yorkshire, County Durham and Northumbria also targeted.

Police said 21 people were arrested in the "wide-ranging" operation.

Of those held, six are from the Hackney, Isle of Dogs and Ilford areas of London, and 15 are from the North East and North Yorkshire.

We have hammered away at the bottom end in the past but this time we have the information we need to target key people
Det Insp Dave Lamplough, Cleveland Police

The latest raids, which focused on the network's "major players" followed an operation in September to disrupt street-level dealing.

Cleveland Police Chief Constable Sean Price said: "Today's action strikes at the very heart of a lucrative drugs network.

"The aim is to take out not just street level dealers, but the masterminds behind this evil trade.

"This sends out a clear message that those who try to bring drugs into our communities will be arrested; there is no hiding place."

Detectives said they had recovered evidence from mobile phones seized in the September raids, which led them to the major dealers.

'Whole network'

Det Insp Dave Lamplough, of the force's Organised Crime Unit, said: "The vast majority of the people being targeted today are Jamaican.

"Although the gang had their base in Teesside, the main co-ordinators of the operation were in London.

"We have hammered away at the bottom end in the past but this time we have the information we need to target key people.

"We are taking out the whole network."

He said the gang, which imports the crack cocaine using mainly female couriers, distributes across the North East using the East Coast rail network.




VIDEO AND AUDIO NEWS
Footage of police raids



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