Police who led a crackdown on drug dealers in Buchan are to repeat the exercise in Aberdeen and have warned criminals “we will catch you”.
Dozens of police swooped on 34 properties in Fraserburgh and Peterhead in a single day last October, arresting 53 people under Operation Corner.
Police, health and housing officials have helped 110 people in those areas exploited by gangs to deal drugs, and 60% have turned their backs on the criminal underworld and transformed their lives.
Now, the Evening Express can reveal police plan to replicate the operation in Aberdeen.
A pilot project will target Seaton and Tillydrone and could be extended into Torry and Northfield.
Detective Chief Inspector Lorna Ferguson said: “Based on the intelligence we have, we’ve decided that Seaton and Tillydrone will be the pilot area. I can fully see that expanding.”
In the first instance, police will raid properties in the area and offenders could be charged.
However, those exploited by gangs through “cuckooing” and crime could be offered help.
This is where “county lines” gangs – those based in other cities who want to expand into new markets – blackmail debt-ridden drug addicts into using their homes as drug dens, known as “cuckooing”.
Police will work with NHS Grampian, Aberdeen City Council and Alcohol and Drugs Action to help those people with health, housing, addiction, benefits and employment issues – as they did in Buchan.
Det Ch Insp Ferguson said: “We’ve got a really positive story in relation to what has happened in Buchan, so we’re looking to take the initiative into Aberdeen city.
“Intelligence suggests groups from the north-west of England predominantly focus on the North Aberdeen corner.
“In the city there are groups from Liverpool but there are also groups from London and West Midlands in the city, and also from Yorkshire.
“We will be executing warrants and there will be community reassurance given by police to residents, for example, at community meetings.
“We want to tell people what we’re doing and encourage them to come forward to report things.
“The operation will be continually monitored – just because we’re in Seaton just now, if someone is being cuckooed in Torry or other areas of the city, we will react to it.
“Our message is that, if you’re involved in the supply of drugs, we will catch you. We are coming for you next. Some of those caught up in it are vulnerable, whether that is through mental health, alcohol or drugs misuse and it is vital they get the support they need.”
She added that the 110 people who have been helped in Fraserburgh and Peterhead are visited monthly to protect them from exploitation.
Aberdeen City Council co-leader Jenny Laing said: “We recognise the impact drug dealing can have in communities and, where residents are being exploited by organised crime groups for cuckooing, we are committed to working with our partners to deal with this robustly.
“We will ensure that vulnerable individuals and communities get the support they need to increase their safety.”
Keep up to date with the latest news with The Evening Express newsletter
Alcohol and Drugs Action chief executive Fraser Hoggan said: “We exist to reduce the harms faced by people with problematic drug or alcohol use – to help them become stable and to recover.
“Many of the people we support have complex physical or mental needs, making them vulnerable to those who seek to exploit their situation.
“Cuckooing is exploitation and harmful, on a number of fronts, to those targeted by these organised criminals.
“We owe it to our clients to spread awareness of this problem here in the north-east, to encourage them to pass on information they may be aware of to the authorities and support the efforts of the police and other organisations to tackle the problem at its core.”