DESTROYING crime gangs who make people's lives 'hell' was the driving force behind a police raid on six homes across Oxford yesterday.

Specialist police teams waging the war on drugs in the city say they are closing in on the 'bigger fish' in serious organised groups peddling Class A substances by exploiting vulnerable people and children.

Starting out in 2012 as a six-month crackdown on drug gangs, Operation Bilbo has locked up more than 100 dealers for more a total of more than 324 years and seized £1 million in drug money.

And yesterday, up to 30 police officers stormed homes in Rose Hill, Lye Valley, Blackbird Leys and Wheatley yesterday morning as part of a day of action to disrupt cocaine and heroin supply.

The drug busts are the latest of several across the city and it is understood as many as five crime gangs of various sizes are currently operating.

Detective Sergeant James Blackmore, who lead the misuse of drug warrants, told the Oxford Mail crime gangs were ruining people's lives, adding those exploited by drug lords lived in fear and were 'hostages' in their own homes.

He said: "Organised crime groups can make some people's lives hell and lot of the people they exploit primarily live in fear and get taken hostage in their own homes.

"The wider community can be affected in terms of drug use, which brings out other crime types such as burglaries and robberies.

"Stronghold is about targetting the bigger fish."

Officers raided homes in Kestrel Crescent in Blackbird Leys, Girdlestone Road in Headington, Long Ground in Greater Leys, Ashhurst Way in Rose Hill, The Slade and Tyndale Place in Wheatley.

Though no large Class A substances were recovered in yesterday's operation, officers seized £5,000 in cash from one flat and a small amount Class B drugs.

They also found a six-year-old boy home alone. His mother was arrested at her workplace for child neglect.

Det Sgt Blackmore said the youngster was being cared for by social services.

He added: "While it's always nice to seize larger amounts [of drugs] it just sends out the message again that we do take drug dealing seriously.

"The disruption it has caused is also important.

"It's pleasing to seize the large amount of cash, it really hurts criminals when you take the cash off them."

The six Operation Bilbo officers based at St Aldate's Police Station, now called part of the force's Stronghold team, continues to dismantle groups and has seized more than £1m in cash made form drugs in five years.

Thames Valley Police's Stronghold campaign aims to reduced serious organised crime, which includes stopping county lines drug supply and cuckooing - which involves gangs taking over the homes drug users to deal from.

Detectives said a change in tactics had been made in recent months to not just catch and jail dealers, but to prevent future supply by supporting people at risk of exploitation.

Children are being targeted to run drugs between cities such as London and Birmingham.

A report by Oxfordshire County Council in March warned there have been several cases of missing children in the county being linked to drug running.

Hundreds of vulnerable youngsters in the county could be at risk of exploitation and social services warned there is 'an emerging pattern' of boys aged 13 to 17 being exploited.

The Home Office says British children are being targeted through social media and used as drug mules due to being 'more likely to evade police detection'.

They also say factors which heighten a person's vulnerability include prior experience of neglect and abuse, homelessness, drug misuse, being disabled and having connections with other people involved in gangs.

Sgt Blackmore said the police were working with their partner agencies to protect the most vulnerable in society.

Reports of trafficking of drugs in Oxford between April 2016 and March 2017 increased by 36 per cent from 83 to 113, but overall reports of drugs offences decreased by almost seven per cent from 551 to 514.

Yesterday, officers tweeted a photo of about 20 needle syringes they had cleared up in the church yard of St Mary Magdalen, Oxford.

Oxford City Councillor Tom Hayes, lead member of community safety said the council and police needed to make Oxford 'more resistant to drug dealing'.

He added: "We have a growing problem with drug use and dealing.

"We need to look after vulnerable people suffering exploitation by criminals supplying drugs."

"I know a lot of police officers put a lot of work into these raids behind the scenes."