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Sussex Police operation breaks two London drug gangs – with video
The latest wave of Sussex Police’s Operation Reduction has seen 54 arrests, £55,000 worth of crack cocaine and heroin seized and £16,000 cash recovered. Neil Vowles lifts the lid on the world of the Brighton and Hove drug dealer and the unique police operation that aims to keep them in check.
Drug dealers are befriending vulnerable residents and setting up drug operations from their homes.
The London dealers are targeting the vulnerable to use their Brighton and Hove flats as the base of their drug-running operation in a technique known as “cuckooing”.
It is one of the ways that criminals from the capital have been trying to infiltrate the city’s drugs trade.
But in the most recent wave of Sussex Police’s Operation Reduction, two organised crime groups bringing heroin and crack cocaine from London into Brighton, including several drug kingpins, are now facing long jail sentences.
The latest wave of the operation, which was initially launched in 2005, began in July last year with plain clothes officers identifying dozens of street dealers.
Further intelligence gathered in a series of raids in recent weeks has led to 54 arrests as well as 16oz of heroin and more than 3oz of crack cocaine being seized from homes.
In addition, nine suspects have been bailed pending further enquiries, five more arrests are expected soon and more of the arrested drug dealers’ incomes are set to be recovered with confiscation orders.
In one raid alone, £35,000 worth of heroin was found in Clarendon Villas, Hove.
Detectives said just one ounce of heroin could be cut and used for 90 street deals and out on the streets in hours.
This would supply half a dozen street dealers and its confiscation will have left a lot of users struggling to get their next fix.
Following the discovery, Michael Bell, 53, was sentenced to an 18-month high intensity drug rehabilitation requirement.
The most recent operation targeted London gangs who are responsible for one of the two key supply lines of drugs in the city along with Liverpool.
Detectives said the gangs targeted in the current operation were relatively naive young men from London who potentially were each earning thousands of pounds a week.
Criminals will learn from their brushes with the law after police tactics are revealed through submitted evidence.
Gangs will also pick up tips from television programmes and from fellow criminals in prison.
Detective Inspector Julie Wakeford, who has been leading the operation said: “First time, we will find drugs on the kitchen side, the second time they will be buried under the floorboards, the third time it might be buried in the garden and finally they may keep it stashed in a safe house.”
Among the raids carried out by police in recent weeks, The Argus was invited along to a raid on a flat in Selsfield Drive, Brighton, on Thursday January 31.
A plain clothes officer attempted to gain access to the property by posing as a deliveryman and after the door was forced, the home was raided and £1,800 in cash found.
Nicky Tosunoglu, 34, was arrested and bailed to appear at Brighton Magistrates Court until February 15.
A rudimentary security camera had been set-up with a webcam looking out from the property but detectives said that many drug dealers’ lives were so chaotic, it probably wasn’t plugged in or operating correctly.
Mr Tosunoglu was living in an unusual arrangement with a 60-year-old vulnerable man which had all the hallmarks of a cuckoo relationship where often dealers will give residents a small amount of their supply to gain access to their home.
DI Wakeford said: “What tends to happen is dealers coming from outside of the area will befriend a drug user, offer them free drugs in exchange for use of premises as a base to operate from in the city.
“It’s probably very common for drug dealers from out of town.”
Peter Castleton, Brighton and Hove community safety manager, said: “It definitely is happening in the city but to what extent it’s impossible to say.
“The person being cuckooed might not realise what is happening to them so quite often it would be a neighbour who would report it or our colleagues in CRI.
“The cuckooing itself may not be a criminal act and then it becomes a matter of anti-social behaviour.
“Those who have been victims of cuckooing tend to need to be supported after it to ensure that it won’t happen again and in case they are suffering from post-traumatic disorder.”
Operation Reduction has been running since 2005 and was the brainchild of Mike Pattinson, director of operations at drug charity CRI, and then Brighton and Hove Divisional Commander and current Chief Superintendent Graham Bartlett.
The operation has seen unprecedented cooperation between treatment organisations, police and council and aims to get treatment for low-level users and dealers allowing more police resources to be diverted towards bigger operators.
So far, Operation Reduction has led to more than 650 local street dealers convicted, more than 500 users treated and a significant reduction in drug-related crimes and re-offending.
Mr Pattinson said: “I think it’s been an amazing success in terms of the impact it is having on levels of crime in the city and the number of people getting into treatment.
“Drug related deaths are down, the number of people in treatment is up and the number of people successfully completing treatment is up.
"It’s being imitated elsewhere but there’s nowhere else I can think of the same level of integration between police, treatment and local authorities.
He added that he would like to see the operation expanded, extending the focus beyond just opiates and crack cocaine into so-called legal highs and psychoactive substances to match changing drug uses, particularly in the young.
DI Wakeford conceded there was a good reason why the operation is called reduction and not eradication.
She said: “When we have a major success like this, the number of dealers we have arrested is going to have an impact on drug supply in the city until others then take their place.
“But that’s why we are also targeting the treatment side, we are reducing the demand.
“We don’t have those horror stories, you don’t hear of children on hard drugs, we don’t have big violent crime, we don’t have a lot of street robberies, we don’t have shootings because we don’t allow any dealers to establish a territory.
“If you allow them to get established, then they have something to protect so we prevent them from getting established here.”
Street deals literally take place within a couple of seconds and to the untrained eye will pass unnoticed.
Sometimes street dealers carry small wraps covered in plastic bags inside their mouths with some able to carry up to 50 wraps at one time.
Some go as far as to carry wraps in their throat but at huge personal risk to themselves as if a bag should split it could cause them to swallow potentially lethal amounts of Class A drugs.
Users often give themselves away with their body language waiting for a deal to happen, constantly checking their phones and looking about for their dealer.
Once they leave a deal, their body language instantly and noticeably changes and then they are looking for somewhere to take it whether its public toilets, quiet alleyways, car parks or if they can wait to get back to their home.
Dealers will then need to resupply which can mean jumping on a train to London to go to a safe house and then returning to Brighton laden with drugs while rubbing shoulders with commuters. Di Wakeford said: “Street dealers live from hand to mouth.
“As you move higher up the chain, that’s where the real money is.
“On this operation, we have not seen anything unique or very sophisticated in hiding money.
“On other occasions though you have dealers who set-up companies which appear to be legitimate firms and are used for money laundering.”
Even successful drug dealers have to be wary about what they spend their money on and wary of drawing attention to themselves by owning luxury items beyond their means otherwise they could lose their possessions through the courts.
It means many dealers drive around in hire cars so that if they are arrested, the cars simply go back to the hire firm.
During a drugs raid, one of the biggest obstacles that officers find is not the behaviour of suspects or any aggressive dogs barring their way, but the strength of the doors.
Officers find many of the newly installed council doors very difficult to break down.
The doors can stand up to 70 hits from specialised equipment and in some places the doors are stronger than the walls.
Detectives say that in about seven in ten raids, suspects are passive and put up no resistance.
The image of desperately flushing produce down the toilet is a bit of cliché but some suspects will throw incriminating evidence out the window.
First London group who have already pleaded to the offences are:
Ainsley Kelly, 18, of Mayell Road, London, - possession with intent (PWI) to supply heroin and crack cocaine, conspiring to supply heroin and crack cocaine.
Rhyan Mayers, 20, of Saltourn Road, London - PWI heroin and crack cocaine, conspiring to supply heroin and crack cocaine.
A16-year-old, who cannot be named for legal reasons, of London - conspire to supply heroin and crack cocaine.
Daniel Rock, 23, of Rattray Road, London, - conspire to supply heroin and crack cocaine.
Sarah Woolgar, 33, of Queensway, Brighton - conspire to supply heroin and crack cocaine.
Second London group who have been charged but not yet pleaded are:
Sebastian Vassell, 21, of Roydene Road, London - conspire to supply heroin and crack cocaine.
A16-year-old, who cannot be named for legal reasons, of Eastbourne - conspire to supply heroin and crack cocaine.
Alan Richardson, 18, of St Aubyns, Hove - conspire to supply heroin and crack cocaine.
Lee Thompson, 43, of Plymouth Avenue, Brighton - conspire to supply heroin and crack cocaine.
Chanelle Law, 20, of Roydene Road, London - conspire to supply heroin and crack cocaine.
Dean Barrett, 21, of Ladysmith Road, Brighton - conspire to supply heroin and crack cocaine.
Brian Langridge, 42, of North Place, Brighton - conspire to supply heroin and crack cocaine.
Others arrested, charged and convicted as a result of this operation are:
Derek Kindler, 41, of Grand Parade, Brighton - PWI heroin and failing to surrender to bail.
Michael Carew, 21, of Lower Rock Gardens, Brighton- PWI heroin and crack cocaine plus possession of a bladed article in a public place.
Michael Bell, 53, of Clarendon Road, Hove - PWI Heroin x 2, possession of an offensive weapon in a public place x 2 and PWI other Class A drugs.
Akwasi Opoku-Afriyie, 21, of Strattford Road, Brighton - PWI and supply of heroin and crack cocaine.
Others charged and pending trial are:
Younes Limia, of Florida Street, London - PWI crack cocaine x 4, PWI heroin x 3.
Michael Carew, 21, of Lower Rock Gardens, Brighton - supply heroin x 3, supply crack cocaine x 2.
Tony Tavener, 51, of Grande Parade, Brighton - PWI heroin and crack cocaine.
Mohammed Hye, 19, of Third Avenue, London E12 - PWI heroin and crack cocaine, supply of heroin x 3 and supply of crack cocaine.
Abobacarr Bittaye, 25, of Vernon Terrace, Brighton - supply crack cocaine.
Marchel Ngum, 31, of West Street, Brighton - supply of heroin.
Matui Kotun, 53, of Grande Parade, Brighton - supply crack cocaine and supply heroin x 3.
Duane Aldridge, 29, of Whitehawk Way, Brighton - supply of heroin x 3.
Wayne Green, 45, of Upper Chalvington Place, Brighton - supply of heroin.
Charlie Verrell, 44, of Dorset Gardens, Brighton - supply heroin x 2.
Nicky Tosunoglu, 34, of Selsfield Drive, Brighton - supply crack cocaine x 2 and heroin x 1.
Tony O’Brien, 50, of Grande Parade, Brighton - concerned in the supply of heroin.
Simon Hornby, 42, of Cavendish Place, Brighton - supply heroin x 2.
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