POLICE smashed their way into a flat on a quiet residential cul-de-sac in hope of stopping drug dealers in their tracks.

Some 15 officers from Thames Valley Police bashed their way into a man’s living room – where they were met with a dangerous maze of needles and rubbish.

The scale of the operation which was about to unfold had begun an hour earlier at Banbury Police Station, and was made clear by the officers in black being briefed on the events.

Oxford Mail:

John Capps, the detective inspector for Cherwell and West Oxfordshire, addressed the room: “We want to make Banbury a safe place. We want to make it a place where county drug lines don’t want to set up business here. We want to maintain the hostile environment for criminals and keep people safe.”

County lines gangs traffic drugs into from cities out to rural areas like Banbury, often using vulnerable people to sell them.

Oxford Mail:

This raid, last Tuesday, was one of 18 in a ‘week of action’ for Operation Stronghold, cracking down on county lines, organised crime and aiming to protect vulnerable people caught up in it.

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With this in mind, the group kitted up and split up into vans before driving down the rush-hour roads of Banbury shortly after 5pm.

It is not the typical time to carry out a drugs warrant, but officers had gained intelligence in the months leading up to the raid that there were sometimes up to 10 people using the home as a base for drug-related crime at that time of day.

The main tenant was known to the police and had a series of medical warnings alongside them including a dependency on Class A drugs – which meant a ‘considerable amount’ of needles in the home.

Oxford Mail:

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On arrival, officers scurried out of the vans, climbed up the ladder and waited for the go-ahead to smash their way inside.

It took two smashes of the sliding door glass pane, which were accompanied with shouts of ‘police with a warrant’, before officers were able to detain one person inside.

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As the situation slowly defused, the special trained officers watched back head-cam footage and the others worked rifled through the evidence inside.

Sergeant David Keith, who was operation supervisor, explained that they were likely to be inside for ‘hours’ navigating the drug paraphernalia scattered on the floor, which was eventually seized by officers.

The Sergeant, who is also the 'problem solving Sergeant' at Banbury, explained that smashing through windows was the only way of keeping the property under control.

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He said: “With a drugs warrant we need to know that we have control over the property and the persons in the premise and that evidence doesn't get flushed down the toilet, or – worst case – people put it into their body orifice or swallow it, because then it puts them at harm.”

In the end, the person detained was not arrested, but was instead put into a police safeguarding program.

He was one of 80 vulnerable people to be helped last week.