Newham Police raids smash “mafia” gang following drug fears
- Credit: Archant
Police have broken up a self-styled “Portuguese Mafia” in a series of drugs raids.
Operation Dionysus resulted in 13 arrests as Newham police sought to take control of parts of West Ham and Stratford where the group is suspected of dealing in cocaine and skunk, and targeting residents in drug-related crime.
The group calling themselves the Portuguese Mafia, is a loose affiliation of around 20 young Portuguese-speaking men, according to police officers.
Some have obtained an EU passport after entering Portugal from the country’s former African colonies and trading areas such as Mozambique and Senegal.
The clampdown came after a three-month undercover investigation by Newham police following complaints from residents about drug dealing, intimidation and antisocial behaviour in and around West Ham Park and Stratford.
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The group’s activities are also said to have attracted crimes such as prostitution, burglary and personal robberies to the area.
Det Insp Mark Rodgers, who heads up the crime squad at Newham police, said: “The group has had quite a big impact in terms of antisocial behaviour, drug dealing, and personal robberies such as targeting people for their mobile phones in places like West Ham Park.
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“Youths have been congregating in streets such as West Ham Lane and outside businesses in Stratford dealing in drugs.”
Around 60 riot-trained officers from the Met gathered at the Territorial Army Centre in Cedars Portway, along West Ham Park, for a briefing ahead of the operation, last Thursday.
So-called rapid entries were then carried out simultaneously at three different addresses in the borough, while further search warrants followed during the day and a day later.
Briefing officers ahead of the raids, Det Ch Insp Alan Moore said: “The group has been taking the mick for ages and it is time we gave the area back to the community.”
He said that group members arrived about six to seven months ago for the Olympics and stayed.
But increased police resources had made it harder for the group to operate during the Games.
Police pulled up in vans outside Another Level Hair Studio in West Ham Lane.
Sniffer dogs were put to work inside as officers questioned and searched staff and customers.
No arrests were made and no drugs were found at the barbers in West Ham Lane.
Other addresses searched included a housing block in Stratford and other residential premises.
Ten people were charged with a range of offences, including possessing and supplying Class A and B drugs.
Five men appeared before Stratford magistrates on Saturday and four of them were remanded into custody and will appear at Inner London Crown at a later date.
A 15-year-old boy pleaded guilty to supplying a class A drug and a class B drug and was remanded on bail and ordered to reappear later for sentencing. Five other men who were arrested were bailed and ordered to return to police pending further investigations.
Three others were arrested on Friday, as part of the same operation, on suspicion of a robbery on a route 25 bus in January.
Two were charged with a public order offence.
Residents who suspect drug dealing in their community can call police on 101 or Crimestoppers, anonymously, on 0800 555111.
For more photos from the police raids see today’s newspaper.