DRUG dealers have been warned police are working tirelessly to disrupt their illicit business and exploitation of young people by a top police officer.

North Essex Det Chief Insp Paul Wells was involved in a series of raids across Clacton which saw a dozen people arrested yesterday.

He said he and his team were pleased with the results which focused on county lines operations.

“County lines as a way of dealing drugs has become more prevalent in the last five to ten years,” he said

“It brings with it exploitation and associated violence.

“This is the sharp end of a seven month investigation.

“We have put so much work in ahead of these raids we are pretty confident we can achieve arrests, charges, court appearances and meaningful custodial sentences.

“We have brought in 12 people already and more could follow in the coming days.

“We are pleased because a lot of hard work has gone into it.”

Mr Wells said the simultaneous raids were fairly rare, but officers were trying to find dealers.

“Police in Essex are targeting drug dealers every day,” he said.

“We have a pretty good idea of who is doing it and the ones who are targeted is based on their level of threat, harm and risk.

“Hopefully today will be a really meaningful step in stopping them.

“This operation focused on Clacton but the truth is anywhere where you have a lot of people residing there is an industry for drug dealing.

“We will carry out these sort of co-ordinated raids on a few occasions a year.

“It is certainly not a daily or weekly occurrence.

“If you are going to do it then you have to be pretty certain you are going to achieve the results you want.”

Mr Wells said the public at large was not at risk of harm from county lines operations but, he said, there was often violence between rival organisations in turf wars.

He said: “The nature of county lines brings with it gangs and rivalries between different lines.

“What we do is work with our partners to help people involved in it where it is appropriate.

“We want to support people who have been exploited.

“They might be children in complex and challenging situations who do not have strong, law abiding role models in their lives.

“Gang life might appeal to them but we want to show them the alternative reality.

“If you get involved in drug dealing you are likely to be arrested and you expose yourself to the risk of serious violence.”

The officer also appealed to people who were concerned about drug dealing or knew someone who might be involved to get in touch with his team.

“A big reason we have been able to do what we have today is because of information from the public,” he said.

“If you know somebody who is dealing drugs and they seem young and vulnerable then please call us on 101.

“You can remain anonymous by calling Crimestoppers on 0800 55511.

“That information really is the lifeblood of operations like we have done today.”