Almost 100kg of illicit drugs, £1.5million cash, firearms and a grenade have been seized as part of the North East’s biggest-ever crackdown on serious and organised crime.
Since March, officers from the North East Regional Special Operations Unit (NERSOU) have been busy carrying out coordinated strikes, tactical vehicle stops and raids alongside teams from Northumbria, Durham and Cleveland as part of a national clampdown called Operation Venetic.
The activity follows months of intricate planning and undercover work by European law enforcement agencies who successfully gained access to an encrypted means of criminal communication which was being used by thousands across the continent and allowing them to carry out their activity under the radar. Thousands of handsets were carefully monitored and millions of messages analysed before forces set about targeting some of the most dangerous individuals operating in their communities.
In the North East, this activity has seen nine firearms recovered alongside 91kg of cocaine, amphetamine, MDMA and Ketamine seized as well as thousands of Cannabis plants destroyed and a range of cars seized.
A total of 37 people have been arrested across the region with nine remanded in custody.
Detective Chief Superintendent Alastair Simpson, from NERSOU, said the operation has shown the far-reaching powers of police forces and law enforcement and warned anyone making money from serious and organised crime would be brought to justice and stripped of their assets sooner rather than later.
He said: “Organised crime is anything which is planned, coordinated and conducted by brazen individuals who want nothing more than to turn a profit. This operation sends a clear message that we will do all we can to bring these people to justice and seize any assets achieved through criminal means.
“This has been a clear priority for us and the three police forces of Northumbria, Durham and Cleveland since we launched Operation Sentinel last January, our overarching dedicated initiative to target this type of activity.
“Organised crime can devastate our communities and can often see the exploitation of children and vulnerable people. While it’s amazing to see such large recoveries of drugs and firearms – it’s important we continue our work so these groups are dismantled and can no longer operate.
“Community intelligence is vital to this and we hope this activity gives people the confidence to approach their local force with any information that can help us tackle serious and organised crime.”
Jayne Lloyd, NCA Regional Head of Investigations for the North, said: “Operation Venetic is the broadest and most significant co-ordinated assault on UK organised crime groups ever seen.
“Criminals who believed they were operating anonymously in the shadows of technology, have and are still being exposed, this is causing criminals grave concern.
“Together with our partners in the UK and abroad, we have protected the public by arresting those who thought they were untouchable as they conducted their illegal activities within our communities.”
Operation Venetic has been coordinated by the National Crime Agency (NCA.)
Want to report something suspicious? You can contact your local force on 101 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.
In the North East, this activity has seen the following items seized:
- 9 kg cocaine
- 79 kg amphetamine
- 2 kg MDMA
- 1200 cannabis plants and 10kg cannabis bush
- 1 kg Ketamine
- 41 kg Mixing agents
- 10 vehicles
- Twelve encrypted devices
- Nine firearms
- 338 rounds ammunition
- One explosive