East Durham arrest as force takes part in ‘largest intelligence led operation’ in force’s history

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A MAN from Thornley was being quizzed on suspicion of his involvement in a conspiracy to supply drugs.

The 48-year-old, being questioned at Peterlee Police Station, was one of 15 people arrested in dawn raids as part of a concerted drive to stem the supply of illegal drugs and tackle organised crime.

The RSPCA has also been contacted after the discovery of a suspected puppy farm of around 20 dogs at an address in East Durham and further investigations will take place regarding the legitimacy of the farm.

The arrest was part of Operation Russett, which included 200 officers and the National Crime Agency (NCA) and targeted homes in County Durham, Leeds, Liverpool, Shropshire and Manchester.

One vehicle was seized in Thornley, as were two vehicles elsewhere, along with cannabis, amphetamine and a large amount of drugs. Other evidence have been previously secured during the year-long investigation.

Operation Russett, which incorporates Durham Police’s Operation Sledgehammer, has led to 12 men, two women and a youth being arrested for conspiracy to supply Class A drugs.

The people arrested are 12 men aged between 24 and 49, two women aged mid-twenties to early thirties and a youth. They are being interviewed at local stations.

Detective Sergeant Nicola Lawrence said: “Today’s arrests are as a result of a long running, proactive police investigation aimed at disrupting those suspected of being involved in the supply of drugs.

The police and the NCA cannot tackle this issue on their own.

“I would like to thank those who continue to assist us by providing information to the police.”

Chief Inspector Elaine Taylor from Durham’s Response Command said: “This is the largest intelligence led operation that Durham Constabulary has ever been involved in.

“Today’s operation has seen arrests made in Leeds, Manchester, Liverpool and Market Drayton as well as on the outskirts of Durham City.

“We will not tolerate criminals operating in this force area.

“Those who deal in drugs are often part of a wider criminal network, and by taking action against them we are sending out a clear message to others involved in criminality that we will continue to dismantle, disrupt and destroy these networks.”

Neighbourhood Chief Inspector Andy Huddleston said the 12-month-long campaign would not have been possible without the support of local people who have provided invaluable information.

Anyone with information about drug-dealing or any other criminal activity in their area can call the police on 101 or Crimestoppers on 0800 5551111.