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Police want nowhere for Highland drugs gangs to hide

By Gregor White

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Police have carried out raids on properties of suspected drug dealers before.
Police have carried out raids on properties of suspected drug dealers before.

Community involvement is crucial to continuing to disrupt the operations of county lines drugs gangs, local officers have said.

The practice of big city gangs flooding other areas with drugs, establishing local bases and using often vulnerable young people to carry, store and deal for them, is well known, but completely eradicating the practice is almost impossible.

In Inverness, however, its relatively small size means operations can at least be hampered, local police say, with the community playing an important part in that.

“They are our eyes and ears really,” Detective Sergeant Graham Gordon said.

“Inverness is not London or even Glasgow, it’s hard for organised crime groups to hide here – people know when something has changed quite quickly in their neighbourhoods and what we would ask is, where there is a suspicion, that they report it to us so we can investigate.”

Police are also very active on the ground, added DS Gordon, who does targeted work on tackling county lines in particular.

“We have established good relationships with communities and continue to work on that,” he said. “Our officers also live as part of the community – this is where we are from, not just where we work – so we really are invested in tackling the problem.”

Police have carried out raids on properties of suspected drug dealers before.
Police have carried out raids on properties of suspected drug dealers before.

A number of cases have recently come to court testifying to the work being done by police locally to disrupt the drugs trade.

In April, at the High Court in Edinburgh, Serafin Gaik aka Tomas (30), was found guilty following a trial of being involved in a £500,000 cannabis operation while his co-accused, Pawel Chmielewski (34) and Logan MacLeod (21), pleaded guilty following a police “intelligence-led operation”.

All three were jailed with Gaik sentenced to five years, MacLeod for 27 months and Chmielewski for two years.

Lady Poole told the trio that they had been convicted of a serious offence and drugs were a source of misery.

And recently two men were charged after police seized large quantities of heroin and crack cocaine in the Hilton area of Inverness.

Two 16-year-olds, who cannot be named for legal reasons, were also charged as part of the same operation, but DS Gordon said that, while there was a clear criminal aspect to the case that had to be dealt with, working with partner agencies the teenagers would also be offered support as vulnerable individuals.

“Trafficking is part of how these groups work – establishing vulnerable young people, usually, in an area and getting them to do the work – and the welfare side is a huge aspect of what we do as well,” he said.

“In terms of cuckooing [where vulnerable people within a community can be compelled to make their homes available to gangs], people caught up in that can feel they have no choice but to comply.

“They might have a drug debt of their own and see this as the only way of paying it off or they have some other vulnerability, threats are made against them or their family, and that is the sort of activity also that we obviously want to stop if we can.”

Any suspicions of illegal activity can be reported to police on 101 or anonymously through the Crimestoppers service on 0800 555111.

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