Police warn criminals 'South West is not a soft touch' in drug dealing crackdown

  • ITV News West Country's Sam Blackledge reports on a police operation in Exeter

Senior police bosses are warning criminal gangs that the South West is "not a soft touch" and say they are determined to stamp out drug dealing and exploitation of vulnerable victims.

ITV West Country was given exclusive access to a police operation in Exeter and force leaders revealed they have seized more than £10,000 worth of drugs and cash over the past week.

The force says it will no longer tolerate gangs using the region for criminal activity.

Operation Scorpion aims to safeguard vulnerable victims. Credit: ITV News

Temporary Assistant Chief Constable Steve Parker said: "Drug dealing has a really significant impact on our communities.

"The vulnerable are exploited by unscrupulous members of organised crime groups in order to carry out this illegal trade.

"We are here to send a strong message - don't come and exploit the communities of Devon and Cornwall, we will enforce the law, we will deal with drug dealing and the harm it causes."

Police carried out an operation in Exeter which resulted in two arrests. Credit: ITV News

Over the past week, as part of Operation Scorpion, police seized more than £90,000 worth of drugs and £54,000 in cash; along with weapons, mobile phones and vehicles.

During that time the police have also made 36 arrests.

Temp ACC Parker said: "It is a serious issue, and it comes with risk. And I think this piece of work really illustrates the impact that comes with drug dealing in communities.

"We're not a soft target, so those in real big urban areas across the country, we're sending the message out to the drug dealers there that we are not an area that can be exploited, we are not easy pickings down here.

"Drug dealing, on some levels, people see it as a victimless crime. But that is absolutely not the case.

"Every illegal drug supply comes with a victim, someone who has been exploited."

Operation Scorpion aims to not only taken dangerous criminals and drugs off the streets, it also has a mission to protect vulnerable adults and children who may be caught up in illegal activity.

  • Alison Hernandez speaking about the importance to reports being made by members of the public

Alison Hernandez, Devon and Cornwall Police and Crime Commissioner, said officers rely on intelligence from the public.

She said: "People really fear retribution when they're giving information about what's happening about drug dealing.

"And this is one way to ensure that people can be confident to do it anonymously.

"Some people have done that who are very heavily involved in drugs and drug dealing and taking themselves. And they've really given us some help by making sure we're sorting this problem out.

"So I want to thank those who have given that intelligence so far."

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