28/02/2002

Police arrest 18 people in crackdown on heroin

Drugs Squad officers have arrested a total of 18 people in one of the most significant operations mounted against heroin dealers in Northern Ireland.

The swoop codenamed ‘Operation Galiot’ involved overnight searches in Ballymena and south Belfast on 28 February.

A Police Service of Northern Ireland spokesman said officers had arrested 18 suspects, 12 in Ballymena and six in Belfast.

Detective Superintendent Judith Gillespie, Head of Drugs Squad said: “This operation is the climax of a protracted investigation into heroin dealing. We have been gathering evidence and intelligence on certain people since October last year and it is our aim to severely damage the heroin and Class A drugs network in Northern Ireland.”

About 200 officers were involved in the operation, which is understood to have involved undercover officers posing as heroin buyers.

Joe Daykin, the Northern Ireland Drugs Strategy czar said she was delighted with the results of the operation. She said: “This significant operation will put a very big hole in the supply of Class A drugs. I hope it is followed up in the courts where I hope they will treated robustly. It is the dealers we want the dealers off the streets and the users we want to help.

Ms Daykin added that she was not surprised that the operation extended to areas of South Belfast. She said that it was very evident there was a growing drugs problem, particularly in the University area and that residents and community groups there had expressed their worry.

Operation Galiot was initially mounted to hit the supply of heroin in Ballymena, but during the investigation it was found the network extended to Belfast.

A small quantity of heroin with a street value of £300, together with £700 in cash, was seized during the south Belfast operation.

However a police spokesman said the object of Operation Galiot was not about seizing large amounts of drugs but rather to capture those who traded heroin.

(AMcE)

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