A joint Sussex Police and Surrey Police operation targeting cross-county drug gangs has disrupted its 300th drugs line.
On Wednesday, 31 May, the team – known as Centurion – targeted a property in London believed to be linked to a number of drug supply channels across Sussex, Surrey and Hampshire.
During a search of the address, officers seized a large amount of heroin and crack cocaine, approximately £2,000 in cash, and two people were arrested, with one later being charged and remanded.
Kaim Mpenga, 26, of Byron Road, Middlesex, was charged with five offences relating to the supply and intent to supply Class A drugs, and the possession of criminal property.
The Centurion team lead the Surrey and Sussex Police response to county lines drug dealing.
The 300 milestone is testament to the relentless enforcement activity carried out by the team. In partnership with the Metropolitan Police’s Op Orochi on Wednesday (14 June), Centurion supported four warrants in Eastbourne, Seaford and London targeting a suspected county line.
Two 25-year-old men from London and a 37-year-old woman from Seaford were arrested on suspicion of being concerned in the supply of Class A drugs.
County lines are where illegal drugs are transported from one area to another, often across police and local authority boundaries, usually by children or vulnerable people who are coerced into it by gangs. The ‘county line’ is the mobile phone line used to take the orders of drugs.
Founded in September, 2020, Op Centurion was created to target and disrupt those who operate county drugs lines, create a hostile environment for them to work in, and to protect communities from their activity. Since its inception, the Centurion team have:
- Disrupted or dismantled 300 county lines
- Made 594 arrests
- Charged in excess of 1,000 people
- Brought sentences totalling over 538 years
- Seized £933,000 in cash
- Recovered £750,000 in assets such as jewellery, watches, and vehicles
- And removed a conservative estimate of £2million in drugs from the streets of Sussex and Surrey
Over the past three years co-ordinated police activity against dealers has increased, with the Centurion team working closely with the Metropolitan Police to target and prosecute offenders involved in drugs activity between London and Sussex and Surrey.
The work of these specialist teams includes analysis of mobile phones used by dealers to buy and sell class A drugs. This information is critical to investigators, helping them target the most significant members of organised crime groups and ensuring longer term disruption.
Detective Chief Inspector Kate Hyder, of Op Centurion and the Surrey and Sussex Serious Organised Crime Unit, said: “I am extremely proud of the whole Centurion team for their investigative work and assistance to disrupt 300 drug county lines – and we’re still counting, as the hard work continues onto the next milestone.
“It is a huge achievement for a relatively new team, funded through the uplift. There is so much work that goes on behind the scenes to achieve these results, relying on vital shared specialist knowledge.
“The supply of illegal drugs spreads enormous harm in our communities and devastates the lives of our most vulnerable people. Our commitment to disrupting this practice, alongside our partners, remains unwavering.”
Sussex Police & Crime Commissioner Katy Bourne said: “County Lines drug dealing is a scourge on everyone. It often has long-lasting consequences for the vulnerable children who are groomed and coerced into joining the gangs whilst negatively impacting the wider community through increased incidents of violence, abuse, theft and antisocial behaviour.
“It is often a hidden crime and requires specialist teams to gather intelligence, pursue the criminals and offer support, safeguarding and education to those most at risk.
“Our residents deserve to be safe so I’m delighted that the Government’s Uplift recruitment programme has enabled us to put more officers into the team at the cutting edge of Op Centurion and I thank those officers and our partners for their tenacity in clamping down on dealers. This fantastic 300 milestone demonstrates Sussex Police’s commitment to continuously and robustly disrupt these dangerous gangs.”
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