Police raids to put an end to postcode wars
THIS was the moment police in Sheffield tried to smash apart the violent underworld of the city’s postcode gangs.
In a week-long series of coordinated raids, officers combined stealth and force to knock at the houses of suspected gang members, and batter down the doors of those thought to be dealing drugs.
Supt Peter Norman, who coordinated Operation Mach which has so far resulted in 43 arrests, said the aim was to put an end to the brutal postcode gang wars which have claimed four young lives in Sheffield so far.
“The driver behind this was taking away inappropriate role models who intimidate other young people into getting involved in gang activity such as dealing drugs,” he said.
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POLICE smashed their way into scores of homes across Sheffield in a series of dramatic dawn raids aimed at dismantling the city’s postcode gangs and ridding the streets of drugs.
All week officers have targeted the homes of suspected gang members who are believed to be involved in the supply of drugs in Sheffield, and made 43 arrests.
More raids are planned over the next few weeks.
The officer behind the operation, Superintendent Peter Norman, said the raids were the culmination of work to “stop young people getting involved in crime that ends up with people being shot, killed and seriously injured”.
He said undercover officers from across the UK had spent 18 months trying to identify dealers involved with Sheffield’s postcode gangs, whose members attack, maim and even kill each other to protect their turf.
Supt Norman said officers who infiltrated Sheffield’s murky world of gangs and drugs had been assaulted, had knives pulled on them, and been robbed in their attempts to gather evidence against the main dealers.
He said the crackdown had taken officers to communities spread across Sheffield - and should demonstrate that concerns about gang activity and drugs were being taken seriously.
Of the 43 arrested 36 have been charged with offences including supplying controlled drugs and offering to supply controlled drugs.
Five have been bailed pending further enquiries and two have been released without charge.
“This operation is about making people feel safer within Sheffield. It’s about listening to the communities who’ve expressed their concerns that young people don’t feel safe,” said Supt Norman.
“We know there are a number of gangs making people feel unsafe.”
He said the operation was about ridding Sheffield of drug dealers and dismantling gangs by locking up members who younger children aspire to be like - in the hope of stopping the gangs recruiting new blood.
But he said some action had to be taken before the official arrest phase when officers found a number of youngsters being forced into gang activity, including dealing, against their will.
Supt Norman said: “People hanging around in gangs, dealing drugs and intimidating people is something we must stop to prevent them getting a foothold in the community.
“We don’t want teenagers being shot and killed - firing guns at each other.
“My message is clear. If you think you are safe to deal drugs or be involved in gang related crime in South Yorkshire, you’re not. If you think communities will tolerate you, they won’t. If you think people won’t tell us who you are,
“Drugs and violence ruin lives. We will never tolerate it and we will arrest you wherever and whenever we can.”
Specialist firearms officers were drafted in for the raids because of the risk of gangsters opening fire at police to avoid arrest.
Supt Norman said postcode gangs have access to firearms so each raid was meticulously planned to ensure the safety of police and passers-by.
Officers knocked - rather than hammered - on the doors of suspects known to have guns, to avoid the risk of them opening fire if they assumed they were under attack from a rival gang.
But officers armed with battering rams forced their way into other homes where police wanted to use the element of surprise to apprehend suspects and search their properties before they had chance to get rid of evidence, including
Supt Norman said: “Some of the people we’ve been trying to arrest we believe may have access to firearms, so that’s why initially experienced firearms officers will knock on the doors, shout, and make people aware it is the police, not another postcode gang.
“The concern is if people have weapons and they hear doors being broken in they’ll come to the door with those weapons, and there could be some sort of confrontation with the police.
“Ultimately this operation is about arresting people safely and making people in the community feel safe.”