The focus wasn’t the drugs. Rather, Aylesbury’s biggest ever police raid, Operation Sideline, was about the people behind the narcotics – violent, gun-wielding thugs from the murky world of organised crime infiltrating the town.
Nearly six months on from the bust in September and with only a few out of the 40 people arrested still awaiting sentencing(including two suspects who have gone AWOL), the operation is reaching its conclusion.
More than 30 crooks have pled guilty to drugs charges, aware that the evidence against them was overwhelming.
They have been sentenced to a combined 49 years in prison, with punishment ranging from community service to six years for Tristan Folaranmi, 26, of Eaton Road, who was convicted for the third time of drug trafficking. To put it simply, the officers involved are very pleased with their work.
Vale police commander Supt George Wrigley said: “We didn’t do it because of a drug problem.
“We considered these guys quite a threat to the community.
“We were aware of gunshots being fired around one address, people being held against their will in aggravated burglaries. Many of these people are not in Aylesbury any more.
“The community was concerned there was a real threat present. Some of them were very interesting characters.”
The ripple effects of such a bust are obvious. Supt Wrigley said there had been a 22% fall in domestic burglaries – a ‘real benefit’.
The majority of offences were for supplying cocaine and heroin, while most of the dealers were male with an age range of 20 to 40.
But there are anomalies.
Dennis Bradnock, 53, of Wornington Road, London, was jailed for three years for eight counts of supplying class A drugs in Aylesbury.
Bradnock had no previous convictions. Detective Inspector Murden said he is ‘not your usual type of street dealer’.
A 15-year-old boy was the youngest to be sentenced, receiving a youth rehabilitation order for supplying class A drugs.
Women were also caught up in the sting. Deborah Almond, 51, of Elm Green, received 18 months for her role in supplying class As.
The raids took place over two days, but the preparation beforehand went back five months, with several thousand man hours spent on gathering intelligence.
“We had 170 officers involved over the two days. Before that we had a period from April to July where five days a week half a dozen officers worked on it,” said Insp Wrigley.
“An awful lot of resources across the force went into it.”
Det Insp Murden, who led the investigation, said: “The number of guilty pleas was a real strong point which shows we did a good job on the day.
“We then have to spend less time creating cases for court. That usually is a positive that it went well and it was run well on the day.”
He said it was an enormously satisfying operation to be involved in.
“Police officers get a buzz out of being involved in a big operation like that.”
Attention has now turned towards maintaining a safe community in Aylesbury.
Supt Wrigley said that the majority of dealers came from London originally – and keeping them out of the Vale is a priority.
“I’ve worked around the Thames Valley for 30 years and dealers will go wherever there’s an opportunity. We are not that far from London. There’s good rail and transport links.”
Supt Wrigley paid tribute to the Vale community for their bravery in identifying dealers but said there is no time to rest on their laurels.
“It’s business as usual for us. This process creates a gap in the drugs market. Recreational drug use is always going to be present.
“That’s the challenge for us when it moves from recreation to criminality.
“I can’t say drugs are gone because people are still using them but in terms of organised criminality, it’s now gone.”