Operation Scorpion: The police crackdown that saw 194 arrests in a week

  • Watch Max Walsh's report

Police have arrested nearly 200 people and seized hundreds of thousands of pounds of suspected drugs in an operation spanning the whole of the South West.

For the first time, police in Gloucestershire, Somerset, Bristol, Wiltshire, Dorset, Devon and Cornwall worked together in a bid to dismantle supplies coming into the West Country.

Police say the crackdown - dubbed Operation Scorpion - aims to create a "hostile" environment for those profiting from the drugs trade. 

In total 194 people have been arrested for drug-related offices.

Police also seized £404k of suspected drugs, at least £131k in cash seized and weapons including machetes and tasers.

Operation Scorpion has led to 194 arrests in connection with drugs related offences Credit: Neil Phillips

During the operation - which ran from March 7-13 - officers disrupted 400 drug lines, using tactics like covert surveillance, increased patrols in areas of "high demand" and number plate recognition technology.

They also carried out warrants at addresses used for drug dealing and welfare checks on vulnerable people.

Assistant Chief Constable for Wiltshire Police Mark Cooper said officers created a "ring of steel" against organised criminals in the region.

“We know that those who supply and distribute illegal drugs operate in a borderless way, creating complex networks of drugs lines in our towns and cities, and we need to mirror that if we are going to be successful in taking a strong and robust stance against this sort of criminality," he said.

Avon and Somerset Police disrupted 5 county lines during the week-long operation Credit: Neil Phillips

"It leads to volume crime, violence that impacts our communities and services for those who are engaged in the use and have medical conditions. It has so many impacts in so many lives and it's really concerning the impact it has on young people," he added.

During the week, police spoke to members of the public at Swindon Railway Station - one of the main routes for drugs into the South West - informing them about what to look out for to help young people who may have been coerced into carrying drugs.

Operation Scorpion - force by force

Avon and Somerset Police

  • 64 arrests

  • Seven warrants executed

  • Five county lines disrupted

  • Approximately 350 pieces of disruption work relating to organised criminal gangs

  • 178 visits and/or safeguarding checks to vulnerable people's addresses

  • At least 44 educational visits to schools, youth clubs, colleges and scouting groups, to engage with young people, parents, teachers and other professional practitioners about exploitation and grooming

  • At least 41 weapons sweeps and 69 additional patrols in areas of high demand for drug dealing/misuse and serious violence

  • A significant number of intelligence reports gathered helping us to better direct resources going forward and to help safeguard vulnerable people

A heroin block seized by Dorset Police Credit: Dorset Police

Dorset Police

  • 18 arrests

  • 17 warrants executed

  • Weapons seized including tasers, machetes, nunchakus and an extendable baton

  • Around £100,000 in cash seized

  • Six county lines disrupted

  • 17 disruptions linked to 36 vulnerable members of the community that have been visited and their welfare checked

  • Increased uniform presence in identified hotspots. 

  • 15 intelligence reports gathered helping us to better direct resources going forward and to help safeguard vulnerable people

Devon and Cornwall Police

  • 20 arrests

  • Approximately £21,000 worth of drugs seized

  • Approximately £7,600 of cash seized

  • 21 disruptions to drugs supply lines

  • 21 safeguarding and vulnerability visits

Gloucestershire Police

  • 19 arrests

  • 11 warrants executed

  • Two drugs lines disrupted

  • Approximately £130k worth of suspected drugs seized

  • 20 vulnerability checks carried out

Wraps of cocaine seized by Devon and Cornwall Police Credit: Devon and Cornwall Police

Wiltshire Police

  • 20 arrests

  • 10 warrants executed

  • 24 vehicles stopped

  • Seven drugs lines shut down

  • Approximately £12,500 worth of cash seized

  • Up to £3,000 worth of drugs seized

  • 42 vulnerability checks completed

  • 11 safeguarding referrals made and 200 drug users 

Suspected crack cocaine and heroin seized from a Cheltenham Airbnb Credit: Gloucestershire Police

British Transport Police

  • 23 arrests

  • 34 operations

  • 19 joint operations

  • 12 people safeguarded

  • 22 drugs seizures

  • Nine weapons recovered

  • £11,365 in cash seized

South West Regional Organised Crime Unit (SWROCU)

SWROCU carried out more than 30 arrests of people suspected of transporting drugs by road into the region following an operation involving automatic number plate recognition.

Seizures included:

  • £20k worth of heroin and £16k worth of cocaine from suspected County Line dealers based in the North West stopped in Devon and Cornwall

  • £200k worth of cannabis, a knife, thousands of pounds in cash seized as a result of a vehicle stopped in Devon and Cornwall

  • £10k heroin and crack cocaine from a vehicle which was travelling to Bournemouth from Merseyside

  • £4k class A seized from a vehicle stopped in Gloucestershire

  • £20k vehicle stolen from a burglary and a £35k vehicle seized

Anyone with information about illegal drugs activity is asked to report it to their local police service online or via 101.

Always call 999 in an emergency.