DEALERS peddling drugs on Sheffield’s streets have been locked up for a total of 67 years after being snared by undercover police officers who infiltrated their murky world.
A total of 27 men, women and teenagers were caught in the 18-month police sting, and 22 are now serving prison sentences.
Police mounted their operation following concerns from communities across Sheffield worried about dealers operating at all times of the day and night and attracting addicts desperate for a fix.
Police chiefs were also concerned about dealers having affiliations to gangs, and the risk of rivals using extreme violence to protect their turf.
The operation was aimed at dismantling gangs by arresting dealers in the hope of stopping their illegal trade, but it was also meant as a stark warning to others tempted to follow in their footsteps.
The first dealers knew they had been under surveillance, and their gangs had been infiltrated, was when police officers mounted a series of co-ordinated dawn raids - smashing their way into their homes as the criminals slept.
Teams of officers stormed homes with precision timing, before anyone had the chance to tip off any of the other suspects.
The operation concentrated on the Broomhall, Sharrow and Sheffield city centre areas, and followed another successful undercover operation in 2007 which landed 20 pushers behind bars after they were caught selling drugs in the city centre to police officers posing as addicts.
Officers had spent months gathering video footage of deals done on the street to get the evidence they needed.
That operation was aimed at cleaning up the Castle Markets area of the city, which had been plagued by dealers hawking heroin and cocaine.
Officers raid homes across South Yorkshire on a daily basis in the ongoing war against drugs and, while some operations target street dealers, others are aimed at those further up the supply chain who are responsible for importing drugs into the county in the first place.
One such operation was carried out this month in Rotherham, where police officers targeted the homes of a number of suspects thought to have been profiting from the lucrative drugs trade by arranging for supplies to be brought into the county.
Officers from South Yorkshire Police’s ‘serious and organised crime unit’ targeted people leading lavish lifestyles without any legitimate means of making their cash.
If successfully prosecuted, those arrested could be stripped of their assets under the Proceeds of Crime Act if they are unable to prove how they earned their money.
Superintendent Peter Norman, who led the operation which concluded at court last week, said officers are working hard to prevent anyone hoping to take over from the dealers now languishing behind bars.