POLICE have arrested 13 people for drugs offences in a series of co-ordinated dawn raids.

Around 200 officers were involved in the operation, which resulted in 11 men being arrested in County Durham and Wearside and two men in Merseyside.

The strikes at 6am today (Wednesday, January 30) were carried out as part of Durham Police’s continuing operation Sledgehammer - a campaign against organised crime gangs in County Durham and Darlington.

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Those arrested were aged between 28 and 42, with the majority detained on suspicion of supplying Class A drugs.

They are being held police stations across County Durham, where they will be interviewed later today.

This morning’s arrests took place at houses in Consett, South Moor, Houghton-le-Spring, Hetton-le Hole, Chester-le-Street, Pittington and Ferryhill.

Police searched further properties at addresses in Sherburn Village, Bournmoor, West Rainton, and Consett, with £12,000 being found at a house in Houghton-le-Spring.

Searches will continue throughout today at locations including two waste recycling sites in Consett, where a 38-year-old man was arrested.

Temporary Superintendent Colin Williamson, silver commander on today’s operation, said: “We are very pleased with the results from today’s operation.

“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”

He added: “Over the last eleven months we have dismantled three organised crime groups, seizing cocaine with the street value of £1.3 million, cannabis with a value of £745,000 and cash in excess of £200,000.

“Today’s operation was phase three of a long-running campaign which would not have been possible without the support of local people who have given us in valuable information.”

Around eight invited members of the local community and from partner agencies were present this morning, watching the police action take place.

In the follow-up to this morning’s activity leaflets are being distributed door-to-door in the immediate areas around the target properties by teams of street wardens and police community support officers (PCSOs). These outline the police action and reassure residents that officers are responding to their concerns.

Durham Police and Crime Commissioner Ron Hogg, who joined officers on the ground in the Consett area, said: “This is the culmination of an awful lot of hard work by officers and who pulled together these co-ordinated raids.

“It shows as well, the effectiveness of policing across the country – by the fact there were also raids also in Merseyside and Northumbria.”

Anyone with information about drug-dealing in their area can call the police on 101 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800-555-111.

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