Police chief issues rallying call after drugs raids in the Highlands
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Drugs and cash have been seized at locations in the Highlands as part of a UK-wide week of activity targeting organised crime gangs which use vulnerable individuals – including teenagers – to transport and sell their illegal wares.
And the success has prompted a fresh appeal from one of the region's top detectives for the public to be their eyes and ears as they strive to combat the scourge of so-called County Line dealers.
Police dog handlers have visited post offices in the region to intercept drugs transported via the mail and officers armed with search warrants investigated several properties.
In the Highland and Islands, £20,000 in cash and almost £500 in counterfeit notes were seized while officers recovered crack cocaine, heroin, and cocaine and more than 2kg of cannabis.
In Inverness, almost £1000 in cash, mobile devices, £2500 worth of heroin and £1800 worth of crack cocaine were confiscated after a property in Balloan Road was searched.
Elsewhere, a package containing high-purity cocaine, with a street value of more than £25,000, was intercepted at a post office and a subsequent search of a property in Simpson Place in Dingwall saw cannabis worth around £40,000 being recovered. A 32-year-old man was arrested and inquiries are ongoing.
City councillors were told ahead of a meeting yesterday that five county lines drugs gangs, based mainly in Liverpool, London and Derby, are operating in the Inverness area.
However, police are increasing their efforts by doubling the size of the Inverness-based police team to tackle county lines gangs to 10, working under the direction of a detective sergeant.
As well as linking in with specialist units from Scotland and England to share information and co-ordinate activity, it is also working with other partners such as housing, social work, the NHS and charities in a bid to stop supplies of drugs and the exploitation of vulnerable people and children – some as young as 15.
Detective Chief Inspector Mark Czerniakiewicz, of Highlands and Islands CID, was pleased with the results of the week-long operation and issued an appeal to the public as the team continues its work.
"There are drugs here," he said.
"We are actively doing something about it and continually need the help of the public to look out and tell us about anything they are aware of which may be relevant to that drugs supply."
It could cars visiting a property at strange times of the day or night, for example, or new people coming and going from neighbouring properties.
"We want to use as many tools as we can to stop these drugs hitting the streets," Det Ch Insp Czerniakiewicz said.
"We have got great partnership with a whole number of people.
"Everyone is following in the same direction. It's very good and very positive.
"If you can imagine as a police service, we cannot do everything on our own.
"That is why we are speaking to partners in housing, social work and the Post Office.
"It is about getting that joint approach to really protect these vulnerable adults and vulnerable children."
He said the element of 'cuckooing' was particularly unsavoury with dealers taking over the homes of vulnerable people – adults and children.
He continued: "What we have found in the last number of months is children in this area from other parts of Scotland and England.
"These are children who have found themselves in Inverness having originally gone for a drive have being told they were going to Glasgow and ended up in Inverness, being coerced into distributing drugs."
Related story: Five gangs bringing drugs into Inverness