Four arrested in Sledgehammer campaign that targets organised crime

Insp Vince Addison
Insp Vince Addison

POLICE have assured residents that they are doing all they can to disrupt serious organised crime after four men were arrested over alleged Class A drugs and money-laundering offences.

Officers from Durham Constabulary swooped on houses in George Avenue, Paradise Lane and Tyne Terrace, in Easington Colliery, a business premises in Peterlee, a house in North Shields and a holiday park in Hutton Sessay, near Thirsk, in North Yorkshire, during dawn raids.

Those arrested – aged 41, 40, 35 and 27 – were taken into custody at Peterlee and Durham City police stations.

More than 50 detectives, uniformed officers and specialist staff took part in Operation Madrid, a joint venture planned by the Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA) and Durham Constabulary.

The raids were part of the force’s ongoing Sledgehammer campaign, which targets organised crime gangs operating in County Durham and Darlington, many of whom have links to criminal activity in other force areas.

Speaking about Sledgehammer in general, Inspector Vince Addison, of Seaham and Easington Neighbourhood Policing Team, said: “We stand side-by-side with the community, we won’t tolerate criminals disrupting community lives and we are on the front-foot now taking action against these criminal groups.

“We are using all the different enforcement techniques available to us to disrupt their criminality, put them out of business and put them behind bars.”

Insp Addison added that crime has reduced “year-on-year” in the Easington and Seaham areas.

Yesterday morning’s police action was watched by Durham Police Commissioner Ron Hogg and Chief Constable Mike Barton. Specialist help on drug misuse and financial worries was also available to Easington residents yesterday during a week of action.

SOCA’s regional head of investigations, Gerry Smyth, said: “SOCA and its partners remain absolutely determined to protect the public, in the North-East and across the UK, from organised crime threats.”