Essex drug raids: Dawn operation in Brentwood sees multiple arrests

A drugs rail Image copyright Essex Police
Image caption Ch Insp Lewis Basford said the drug trade was linked to child trafficking and exploitation of vulnerable drug users

Eighteen suspected drug dealers have been arrested in dawn raids targeting suppliers of cocaine.

Around 80 officers, along with specialist dog units, were involved in 20 raids across Brentwood, Essex.

Ch Insp Lewis Basford said the operation had gone "really well", with the first arrests at 05:00 BST.

He said residents and politicians had "raised concerns" about cocaine and the police wanted to create a "hostile environment" for dealers.

Image copyright Essex Police
Image caption Police said they found drugs, money, mobile phones and imitation weapons in the raids

Mr Basford said some people saw cocaine as a "weekend drug", but it was "as harmful as any other drug".

"It may be that a child is trafficked into transporting those drug packages for a dealer, or it may be that someone with a drug habit is exploited into selling cocaine and is subjected to violence unless they comply," he said.

Mr Basford said as a result of the raids, clubs and pubs could "see the police support and help them with people who supply class A drugs".

Image caption Around 80 officers from a variety of units took part in the raids

But he issued a warning to premises which did not work with the authorities.

"We have taken action against premises before and won't be shied away from taking action again," he said.

Search warrants were also executed in Dagenham and Romford in east London as part of the same operation.

Image caption The operation in Brentwood started at 04:00 BST with the first arrests an hour later

Those arrested included men and women aged between 18 and 57 who were from Brentwood, Doddinghurst, Grays, Ongar and Pilgrims Hatch.

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