THIRTEEN people have been arrested and two county lines have been taken out of operation during a series of dawn raids in Braintree, Colchester, Clacton and London this morning.

Police swooped after a seven-month-long operation to target criminals involved in county lines drugs gangs.

Warrants under the Misuse of Drugs Act were executed in Martens Meadow, in Braintree, in the early hours of this morning, as well as several addresses in Clacton, London and Colchester.

Suspected class A drugs, a four figure sum of cash and a stun gun have been seized.

Det Chief Insp Paul Wells said: “A team of detectives has been working over the last seven months to gather evidence against criminals selling illegal drugs and exploiting vulnerable people in our communities.

“Today the residents of Clacton have seen the result of that hard work as nearly 100 specialist officers forced entry to addresses in a series of ‘dawn raids’, arresting suspects and searching for drugs, cash, weapons and other evidence.

“This operation is an example of the extensive and varied work that officers are doing every day to make Essex a hostile place for criminals who seek to sell drugs and exploit vulnerable people in our communities.

“We are committed to doing everything we can to take robust action against these criminal groups and any other individuals who try to fill the gap left by county lines that we dismantle.”

Halstead Gazette:

  • Det Chief Insp Paul Wells

Police said today’s operation was part of the force's ongoing work under Operation Sceptre to tackle serious violent crime in public places - particularly knife crime.

Mr Wells said: “The term ‘county lines’ refers to the trafficking of drugs - typically crack cocaine and heroin - from major cities into smaller towns and rural areas.

“Drugs gangs prey on the vulnerable, using exploitation, grooming and the threat of violence to manipulate and control.

“We work closely with other organisations to support vulnerable people who are affected by gangs and county lines. We do this through a range of means, including education, rehabilitation, and diversionary activities.

“It’s about showing people there are alternative directions to take their lives in, and about helping them to do that.

“With today’s operation in particular, we are working with Open Road - a drug and alcohol recovery support charity.

Halstead Gazette:

  • A suspect is taken into custody in Clacton

"They will support people directly affected. We also urge anyone else who is in a similar situation and would like help and support, to please contact them."

He added: "Information from the public is vitally important in helping us take this crime and exploitation off our streets.

"If you know of someone who you think is being exploited by drug dealers, or you have any information which might help us prevent and detect crime, or protect vulnerable people, call us on 101."