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Dawn raids see scores arrested in massive anti-drugs operation

PUBLISHED: 18:12 10 October 2019 | UPDATED: 08:26 11 October 2019

Officers break into a property in Natal Road. Picture: Hannah Somerville

Officers break into a property in Natal Road. Picture: Hannah Somerville

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Police have stormed dozens of addresses in Redbridge and seized a gun, drugs and cash in a landmark crackdown on drug-related violence.

From 4.30am on Wednesday more than 300 officers descended on 26 residential addresses, arresting 25 people on suspicion of conspiracy to supply drugs.

In a second 'wave' on Thursday another 18 people were arrested across 24 other locations in Ilford Town as well as parts of Dagenham, Havering and elsewhere in east London.

The suspects were arrested on suspicion of various crimes, including possession of a firearm, possession of Class A drugs with intent to supply, and supply of Class A drugs.

Officers entering a property where cannabis was found. Picture: Met PoliceOfficers entering a property where cannabis was found. Picture: Met Police

Nineteen have since been charged with drug-related offences.

The huge operation, codenamed Operation Linstock, saw members of the Metropolitan Police's Territorial Support Group scrambled from all over London.

It marks the culmination of six months' worth of intelligence-gathering by the force into local drug networks.

Sniffer dogs are brought to the scene on the Tiptree Estate. Picture: Met PoliceSniffer dogs are brought to the scene on the Tiptree Estate. Picture: Met Police

Det Supt Jamie Piscopo, who led the investigating team, told the Recorder: "Drugs-related violence is a key issue we need to tackle.

"There have been incidents of serious violence and murder within Ilford town centre and we believe that, invariably, they are interlinked with drugs.

"The message from me and my officers to the criminal element who deal drugs and take drugs is: if you come to Redbridge, we will be robust. You will be dealt with and you will go to prison."

Items seized on Wednsday: Cannabis, a knife, cash and 400 pills thought to be ecstasy. Pictures: Met Police/Hannah SomervilleItems seized on Wednsday: Cannabis, a knife, cash and 400 pills thought to be ecstasy. Pictures: Met Police/Hannah Somerville

Across the tri-borough area known as East Area, Ilford Town is thought to be a hotspot for drugs and drug-related violence.

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In February this year a 20-year-old from Gants Hill, Che Morrison, was stabbed to death near Ilford Station by 20-year-old drug dealer Florent Okende who proclaimed "I run Ilford" before killing him in a row that began over a bag of cannabis.

Items seized on Thursday: A gun, ammunition, cannabis and crack cocaine. Pictures: Met PoliceItems seized on Thursday: A gun, ammunition, cannabis and crack cocaine. Pictures: Met Police

Reports of drug-related crimes have risen sharply in Redbridge in recent months, with 615 offences reported to police throughout 2016 - compared to 745 in the first eight months of 2019.

Our reporter joined teams from Operation Linstock conducting dawn raids at two addresses on Wednesday.

Some 22 members of the TSG attended a family home in Natal Road, Ilford at around 4.45am.

Officers in riot gear forced their way into the property before an arresting team entered and detained one person on suspicion of conspiracy to supply drugs.

At a second property in Tiptree Crescent, Clayhall, a 50-year-old man was arrested and a quantity of cannabis seized after sniffer dogs were brought to the scene.

The total number of officers involved that morning was 306 - not including the custody staff tasked with processing scores of arrests at Ilford Police Station.

Det Supt Jamie Piscopo, who led the investigation team. Picture: Met PoliceDet Supt Jamie Piscopo, who led the investigation team. Picture: Met Police

Over the past six months officers have been involved in covert operations, including test drug purchases, to gather information on the subjects.

The arrests related to a number of drug 'lines' mostly operating within the borough but with some potential links to Essex.

DS Piscopo added: "The key to success in an operation like this is making sure it remains covert and the least amount of people know about it as possible.

"The dealing taking place in Ilford town centre was widespread and lots of money has changed hands. It's personal to me because I know how much of an impact it has and I know how devastating it is for families when people lose their lives over this."

London-wide protests by environmental campaign group Excinction Rebellion led to a small number of officers being pulled off Operation Linstock at the eleventh hour.

But, DS Piscopo said, "Because of all the planning and the timing, we had to continue with the operation. Although they want it to, it can't prevent the MPS carrying out business as usual and the jobs the community of London want us to do."

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