Today sees the launch of one of the biggest and most significant operations during my time as Police and Crime Commissioner.
Op Scorpion is a huge joint project which will see the entire South West of England become a hostile environment for anyone trying to deal drugs.
This ambitious project is months in the making and has come to fruition thanks to close working with my fellow Police and Crime Commissioners and their respective Chief Constables in Devon and Cornwall, Dorset, Avon and Somerset, Wiltshire and Gloucestershire, as well as the British Transport Police and South West Regional Organised Crime Unit.
Drugs are a scourge on our society. They have a devastating impact on individuals, families and businesses in communities across Devon, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly. Our communities are frustrated by blatant drug dealing and using, which is why I made tackling drugs a major priority in my police and crime plan.
Op Scorpion is about tackling this issue head on by disrupting drug networks and county lines operations through intelligence, technology, joint innovation and robust policing to hit drug dealers where it hurts.
However, Op Scorpion is also about identifying and offering help to the people who get caught up in the poisonous web of exploitation, drugs and addiction.
I know there will be people out there reading this who consider themselves casual or social drug users and may think they are not part of this wider problem. Think again.
Some people consider a line of cocaine at the weekend harmless fun, but what they won’t see is how that substance made its way to the South West and the people it damaged by doing so.
Anyone who has seen the television drama Line of Duty will know about the character of Terry Boyle, a young man with Down’s Syndrome who is preyed upon by an organised crime network and forced to act on their orders. Exploitation like this isn’t just the domain of television dramas, it is happening – right now – across the UK and here in the South West.
We want to find these people – who are often children or those with mental or physical disabilities - and make sure they are given the right help and support to make a clean break.
We also want to assist those who have become addicted to drugs by getting them the help to tackle their addiction and break the cycle of criminality and antisocial behaviour which it so often accompanies.
Op Scorpion is the first time that myself and the other South West Commissioners have worked jointly with all our Chief Constables towards this single, important aim – and it has already proved hugely successful.
In our first two weeks of action we have had some incredible results in Devon and Cornwall, with officers seizing more than £432,000 worth of drugs and arresting 172 people. They have also seized money, weapons and vehicles belonging to those involved in the supply of drugs and helped to safeguard 297 vulnerable people.
People in Devon, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly – as well as throughout the entire South West - can expect to see more hard-hitting operations like this over the coming months. Op Scorpion is an ongoing project that will see our forces working even closer together, so even if we didn’t catch up with you this time around, you can be sure we will in the weeks and months ahead.
Everyone can play a part in the success of Op Scorpion. In order to catch and dismantle these drug networks, information from YOU is absolutely vital. We can’t achieve our aim without your help. We want to build a strong intelligence picture of exactly what is happening and where.
Anyone with who has witnessed drug dealing or antisocial drug taking in their neighbourhood or surrounding community can share this information anonymously and safely, without fear of reprisals, by contacting CrimeStoppers on 0800 555 111 or by visiting https://crimestoppers-uk.org/.
The message to anyone looking to deal drugs in the South West is clear – don’t. Our communities won’t tolerate it. We will find you, we will stop you and you will be punished to the full extent of the law.
The South West is no place for drugs.