POLICE arrested 25 suspected drug dealers in a series of dawn raids yesterday morning in one of the largest crackdowns on the heroin trade ever seen in the Lothians.
More than 200 officers were deployed in the blitz that recovered a firearm as well as around £50,000 of drugs and cash.
Dubbed Operation Daylight, officers targeted properties in four of the main towns in West Lothian.
A police spokeswoman said: “The activity has seriously disrupted the drug supply networks within the West Lothian area and has removed a significant quantity of controlled drugs and other assets from organised crime groups estimated in region of £50,000.”
GPs in West Lothian have been warned to expect an influx of addicts suffering from withdrawal symptoms and seeking methadone substitute over the coming weeks.
It follows a six-month investigation into drug gangs suspected of flooding the country with cocaine and heroin.
A total of 21 properties in Whitburn, Blackburn, Bathgate and Livingston were simultaneously raided, yielding a “significant quantity” of the Class A drugs as well as a large amount of cannabis.
The seized drugs and firearm are now being examined by forensics experts. Police used “covert and overt surveillance tactics” – including undercover officers – to investigate two known gangs ahead of the operation.
The Evening News joined police on dawn raids which were supported by eight police horses and a dog unit.
A force helicopter scheduled to provide aerial assistance to the raids was stood down. At a semi-detached house in Whitburn, a squad of officers forced entry with a battering ram before conducting a major search of the premises.
Police later emerged with evidence bags.
At another address, a man shielded his face with his jumper as he was led away in handcuffs.
Raids took place across West Lothian where there were concentrations of suspected drug dealers in Whitburn and Blackburn.
Riot police in protective clothing were joined by plain-clothed officers and “specialist” entry teams. Most of the 23 men and two women who were snared in yesterday’s operation were due to appear at Livingston Sheriff Court this morning.
Today, police stressed that they would maintain a high-visibility presence to reassure the public. Officers are also working with other agencies to deal with the knock-on effect of the arrests.
Detective Superintendent Patrick Campbell said: “This [operation] will not stop – we’ll be assisted by NHS Lothian and the local authority. We will also support the local community and move into a public reassurance phase.”
He added: “Over the course of the next few days, there will be further hits to address any vacuums.”
Last year, we revealed that the number of class A drug seizures across Lothian and Borders had plunged with heroin finds slumping by 35 per cent – from 25.1kg to 16.5kg.
The elimination of some of the biggest drug gangs was identified as one potential factor behind the trend.