This is the moment police smashed down the door of a house suspected to be involved in the county lines drug trade during an early morning bust.

Eastbourne Police Station was a hive of activity as officers made the final preparations for a series of raids across Sussex and London in relation to a county drug line operating in the region.

The Argus: The briefing was held behind this doorThe briefing was held behind this door (Image: Andrew Gardner / The Argus)

It was part of a joint project between Sussex and Surrey police, known as Operation Centurion, with a dedicated team to combat the county lines drug problem.

The Argus was invited to join one team as they set out to “disrupt” and “dismantle” the drug line, which can cause untold harm to the community and the people involved.

And it wasn’t long before the officers were kitted up and made their way into the van.

They made their way to the target location, about two minutes away, where they piled out towards the front door of a house at around 7am.

The police battering ram, also known as the enforcer, was slammed against the door ten times before the occupant opened it themselves to several shouts of the word "police"

Officers filled the property and searched it from top to bottom, and carried in evidence bags for anything they might find.

The Argus: The scene outside the house. Clockwise: An officer carrying a red 'enforcer' battering ram, marks left on the front door from the ram, an officer carrying large evidence bags outside the houseThe scene outside the house. Clockwise: An officer carrying a red 'enforcer' battering ram, marks left on the front door from the ram, an officer carrying large evidence bags outside the house (Image: Andrew Gardner / The Argus)

County lines is the term used to describe illegal drugs being transported across police and regional borders, using phone lines to arrange deliveries and collections of the illegal substances.

Sussex Police said the practice exploits “vulnerable people, including children and those with mental health or addiction issues, by recruiting them to distribute the drugs.”

Detective Inspector Alex Gillott said his team have been preparing for “a few weeks” ahead of the big day – which would involve a co-ordinated series of raids across London and East Sussex in a bid to stop a drug line.

He said: “We looked to intervene with local dealers but also those controlling the line.”

Today’s operation marked the 300th county line raid under the Operation Centurion project – Which has locked people up for a total of 538 years for their involvement in the illegal drug trade.

Officers have also taken £2m worth of drugs off the streets and recovered £933,000 in cash since it was founded in September 2020.

“I’m very proud of the team who achieve these results day-in-day out," he said.

The Argus: Detective Inspector Alex GillottDetective Inspector Alex Gillott (Image: Andrew Gardner / The Argus)

Policing county lines is no easy task, but DI Gillott’s team was seamless in preparation and raiding the house.

He said: “We obtain intelligence initially, and we look to confirm that intelligence undertaking a number of tactics – which I won’t get into – then leading us to being able to identify the individuals operating behind that line.

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“We work with our partners such as the Metropolitan Police to make sure that we obtain not just the local drug runners for the line but hit the middle and upper tiers of that organised group."

The specialist teams can analyse mobile phones used by dealers to buy and sell class A drugs, providing critical information which can target the most significant members of organised crime groups and disrupt the county line for longer.

Their counterparts in London made two arrests, both 25-year-old men with a further arrest of a 37-year-old woman in Seaford as part of the operation. They were all taken into custody on suspicion of being concerned in the supply of Class A drugs.

Raids like these happen regularly across the county as part of Sussex and Surrey Police’s continued efforts to combat the county lines illegal drug trade.

DI Gillott said: “This issue brings with it a real risk to the local community and drug users, who put themselves at risk of not only the damage drugs can cause, but exploitation and violence.

“It puts vulnerable people at risk, which unfortunately includes children.”

Operation Centurion has been endorsed by Sussex Police and Crime Commissioner Katy Bourne.

She said: "County Lines drug dealing is a scourge on everyone.  It often has long-lasting consequences for the vulnerable children who are groomed and coerced into joining the gangs whilst negatively impacting the wider community through increased incidents of violence, abuse, theft and antisocial behaviour.

“It is often a hidden crime and requires specialist teams to gather intelligence, pursue the criminals and offer support, safeguarding and education to those most at risk.

“Our residents deserve to be safe so I’m delighted that the Government’s Uplift recruitment programme has enabled us to put more officers into the team at the cutting edge of Op Centurion and I thank those officers and our partners for their tenacity in clamping down on dealers.

"This fantastic 300 milestone demonstrates Sussex Police’s commitment to continuously and robustly disrupt these dangerous gangs.”