THE new head of CID in Lothian and Borders today pledged to continue the force’s crackdown against organised crime gangs as new figures revealed that drugs worth £2.4 million were seized by police last year.
Detective Chief Superintendent Gill Imery said that officers would target criminals posing the “greatest threat” to the community, with nine gang leaders from the Lothians arrested over the same period.
The force’s Serious Organised Crime Unit (SOCU) also recovered 17 firearms from crime gangs between last April and March, including handguns, shotguns and crossbows.
Drug seizures fell against the previous year, when £3.5m worth of illegal substances was seized across the force area, but one major heroin haul in 2010 was largely responsible for that year’s total.
Det Chief Supt Imery, who was formerly the divisional commander for Edinburgh, said that while drug seizures were “important”, she would prioritise the “dismantling” of crime gangs rather than making large recoveries.
As well as praising the work of SOCU in pursuing high-level gangsters, she stressed the need to take action against street dealers, as well as boosting education and treatment to reduce drug demand.
In January, 21 organised crime gangs were known to be operating in the force area. In Edinburgh alone in the last year, six leaders were arrested along with five “significant group members”, four “lieutenants” and a further 49 gang members.
Heroin worth £825,000 and cocaine valued at £418,000 was recovered by police over the year, while crack cocaine amounted to £168,000 in confiscations.
Det Chief Supt Imery said: “The seizure of drugs is important, but I’m much more concerned with the disruption of organised crime groups and preventing the impact they have on the community.
“We need to have the high-level enforcement, but that must be balanced with a very visible approach to lower-level dealing.
“Enforcement is part of a combination of efforts right across the spectrum, which includes education in schools and working with health services to deal with addicts.”
Det Chief Supt Imery said that the number of firearms being seized was on the rise last year, but shooting incidents had dropped significantly from 2008 and 2009 when the city was plagued by gang wars.
She said: “With only two firearms discharges during the year linked to organised crime, they have been very rare. I’d like to think that is partly because we’ve taken these firearms off the streets.
“In the past we have had criminals willing to use firearms during feuds with one another, but these groups know that SOCU are pursuing them. The resources will be deployed against those who pose the greatest threat.”
Over the year, SOCU identified £6.5m of assets belonging to gang members for potential confiscation under the Proceeds of Crime Act, although Det Chief Supt Imery admitted that she was disappointed more was not being seized by the courts.
She said: “It must be galling, especially in the current economic climate, to see a neighbour driving a fancy car or jetting off on holiday when they are involved in crime. That is why we encourage the public to report these individuals through our Made from Crime initiative.
“But the level of seizures made are a symptom of how difficult it is to prove the link between criminal activity and someone’s possessions.”