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EDITIONS
Thursday, 29 August, 2002, 13:13 GMT 14:13 UK
Armed police to beat drug gangs
Cocaine and gun
250,000 worth of cocaine was seized recently
Police from three of Wales' forces have said they will arm officers in order to fight the menace of drug-related crime.

Officers from Gwent, South Wales and Dyfed-Powys foces met on Thursday to promote Operation Tarian - which means shield in Welsh - an initiative to stop gangs from Birmingham and Bristol flooding the market with cheap, hard drugs.


Armed officers will be used - there will be no holding back

David Francis, South Wales Police

They are working together to stop groups of organised crime gangs from establishing themselves in the region.

Evidence has already been gathered to show that gangs - particularly Jamaican groups, so-called Yardies - are already operating in a number of areas.

The three forces have applied for 2.7m of funding from the Home Office and Welsh Assembly to implement a strategy to stop the groups.

Police fear the gangs - already operating in Bristol and Birmingham - are seeking new heroin and cocaine markets in south Wales.

They are described by police as "violent criminals who target the young and vulnerable".

anti-drugs poster
Police "Rat on a rat" posters are being distributed

They rule by fear and their trademarks include drive-by shootings, public executions, and enslavement of prostitutes.

South Wales Assistant Chief Constable David Francis warned drugs gangs about the use of armed weapons.

"Armed officers will be used - there will be no holding back.

"We want to say to them 'you will not succeed with your gun culture in south Wales'," he said.

Confiscated

Amounts of class A drugs being recovered by the three forces have increased dramatically over the past few months.

Police have seized as much heroin in the past four months as confiscated in the whole of 2000.

The amount was twice that seized in 1999.

Crack cocaine seizures over the four-month period equalled that seized in 1999 and 2000 put together.

Increases

The joint approach to drugs-busting comes at a time when the number drug users registered by pharmacies increased by 14% in the past six months.

In Merthyr Tydfil, the number increased by 100%, and while in Rhondda Cynon Taff there was a 47% rise.

Police said deprived and poor communities were most at threat from the gangs.

They uncovered evidence to show that despite the cost of heroin rising above the UK average in south Wales, cocaine, crack cocaine, LSD and ecstasy remained below the typical cost.

syringes
Heroin is rife in the south Wales valleys

The partnership between the three forces in an effort to prevent the spread of drug gangs in the area is being monitored by other forces across the country.

As part of the preventative strategy, the three forces have launched the 'Rat on a Rat' campaign - where people are asked to ring the free Crimestoppers number to report information on drug dealers operating in their area.

They have also called for more treatment to be made available to drug users and for children as young as three to be educated in the dangers of drug use.

  • Ring Crimestoppers on 0800 555111

  •  WATCH/LISTEN
     ON THIS STORY
    BBC Wales' Hywel Griffith
    "Officers say they need to take even stronger action to stop gangs"

    Where I Live, South West Wales
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