POLICE say they are winning the battle against hard drugs in a Teesside town, following a series of arrests.

Officers say they have succeeded in disrupting the heroin supply chain to addicts in Redcar.

The success follows a long-running undercover police operation, codenamed Operation Jericho, that has already led to 25 arrests.

Of those, 19 people have been charged with conspiracy to supply heroin, supplying heroin and possession with intent to supply heroin.

Cleveland Police said 15 people remained in custody.

Delighted police chiefs said last night that the success of the covert operation has had a "massive''impact on the availability of the class A drug in and around Redcar.

The result has been a big drop in house burglaries and car thefts - the traditional method by which addicts raise money to buy drugs.

Support agencies have also reported a significant increase in the number of addicts asking for help to kick their habit.

Detective Sergeant Mick Knapper, of Langbaurgh Police drugs unit, said: "We are extremely pleased with the results this operation has brought.

"It shows what a small team of police officers, using up-to-date intelligence and information provided by the local community, can achieve."

Inspector Dave Mead, who was the senior investigating officer for the operation, said yesterday: "The public are sick and tired of drug dealers openly dealing on our streets. Some of those targeted in this operation thought they were untouchable. This clearly sends out a message that there is no such thing.

"If people who choose to supply controlled drugs ignore the warnings, the drug unit will come looking for them. They will be caught and sent to jail.''

Operation Jericho - aimed at taking heroin dealers off the streets of Redcar - began in January and ran for three months.

Detectives specifically targeted 15 people who they identified as the main core of heroin dealers in the Redcar area.

This action followed a three-month operation - codenamed Crackdown - aimed at dealers in crack cocaine throughout Teesside.

The campaign saw one crack house closed, 16 people arrested and more than £4,000 in cash seized.