Gangs and drug dealers were targeted today in the biggest ever crackdown by police in Wolverhampton during a series of dawn raids.
Around 280 officers were involved in simultaneous swoops on 14 addresses aimed at breaking up criminal organisations.
The raids, which saw 13 arrests, followed 15 months of undercover surveillance after a string of shootings in the city caused by gang tensions.
Raids took place in Heath Town, Park Village, Ettingshall and Willenhall and targeted suspected drug dealers and gang members.
Police chiefs said they had sent a message to criminals in the city and that the operation – called Wolverhampton No Deal – was based on significant and extensive information collated by a dedicated team of officers. It began when a fleet of around a dozen police vans arrived at the West Midland Forces training centre at Tally Ho in Edgbaston.
They were packed with operational supported units and these were backed up by arrest teams of local Wolverhampton officers in unmarked cars.
Exclusive video of today's operation:
There was a briefing for key figures in the operation before the convoy headed for Wolverhampton who rendezvoused at Bentley Bridge before heading off on separate raids.
One targeted a high-rise home at Campion House in Hobgate Road, Heath Town.
The police team split with some sprinting up the stairs to the flat of the suspect while others took the lift.
At 7am the front door to the flat was burst open with two blows of a battering ram.
Less than half an hour later the suspect was brought out and taken away for questioning on suspicion of drug dealing.
Cannabis plants were found under cultivation in the property.
Other raids were simultaneously taking place at other addresses throughout Heath Town, Park Village and Willenhall with police dog team also involved.
Detective Chief Inspector Paul Drover, who headed Operation Wolverhampton No Deal, said today’s action was the latest step in their efforts to tackle guns and gangs in Wolverhampton’s neighbourhoods.
He added: “After the series of shootings in the spring of 2012 we talked to local people throughout the city and they highlighted gangs and drug dealing as significant issues.
“In a city of a quarter of a million people, a handful was prepared to bring extreme violence onto the streets of Wolverhampton.
“No Deal serves both as our operational name and as a message to the remaining drug dealers and gang members in the city.
“We know how damaging drugs and their use, as well as gangs, can be on the community.”
Ten police were involved in a raid on a property in Field Street in Heath Town, which saw officers smash through the doors and arrested a 21-year-old man.
A small amount of cannabis and a quantity of cash was recovered during the subsequent search.
Today’s swoops follow a carbon copy operation in Birmingham two years ago that led to around 30 arrests and court cases in which mid-level drug dealers were jailed for prison sentences totalling around 120 years.
The suspects seized today were all detained under suspicion of drug dealing but police have established firm links between drug dealing and gang membership in Wolverhampton.
Detective Chief Inspector Drover added: “The issue of drug dealing and use comes up time and again in many of our community meetings.
“We have spent a considerable amount of time collecting all the information available to us.
“Over the last 15 months we have arrested some individuals and obtained a gang injunction for one known gang member and diverted offenders from gang lifestyles through a variety of means.”
Why time is running out for city’s gangs - See today's Express & Star