Essex Police has arrested 170 people in 68 raids over the last three months in a concerted effort to drive drugs gangs out of the county.

The force established its Serious Violence Unit last summer to dismantle and disrupt county drug lines, gangs and target knife offenders.

Between January and March, Essex Police dismantled 19 county drugs lines, arresting and charging suspects and taking away phones used to run the lines. As well as putting 91 suspects before the courts immediately, others were released under investigation.

Across the operations, Essex Police says it has also safeguarded 19 people – vulnerable adults and children who are exploited by gangs, perhaps because they have a drugs habit, abuse alcohol, have mental health problems or are young and can be intimidated easily.

Detectives have put them in touch with agencies which can help them break free from their association with gangs.

Children are often trafficked or used by gangs to carry drugs and the homes of older, vulnerable adults can be ‘cuckooed’, or taken over, by gangs selling drugs. Often the victims don’t realise they are being exploited as they have been groomed and manipulated.

During the same period, officers have seized £87,100 in cash under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 (POCA), which allows police to confiscate or recover through civil court action money believed to be from the proceeds of crime.

And, in the past 12 months, there have been 280 fewer victims of street robberies and non-domestic assaults where people have suffered serious injuries.

Detective Superintendent Scott Cannon, head of the Serious Violence Unit, said: “Although the social restrictions we’ve all experienced in the past year because of the pandemic meant fewer people moving about outside, county lines drugs continued to operate.

“But we’ve continued to tackle them by executing warrants, often using information given to us by members of the public, and this has resulted in a large number of arrests and a corresponding reduction in violence associated with drugs use.

“We’ve invested heavily in our capacity to target serious crime, drugs and violence and to safeguard vulnerable people who get involved in such criminality and this is paying off.

“But we can’t do it alone. If you suspect someone is involved in drugs and drug-dealing or is vulnerable and being preyed on by a gang, we want to know about it. You can ring 999 if it’s an emergency, otherwise report it online at or ring us on 101.”

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