Force celebrates first use of new power to combat drug dealers
Drug gangs operating in Sussex have been disrupted through the first use of new phone line-blocking powers.
Sussex Police claims it is the first force in the country to use Drug Dealing Telecommunications Restrictions Orders (DDTROs) against organised crime groups involved in drug supply.
These powers, introduced last December, allow forces to restrict mobiles they believe are being used to run County Lines networks to remotely deal drugs.
Thirty-eight people have already been arrested in two investigations by Sussex Police that have led to nine dedicated phone lines being closed down.
The investigations are continuing.
Assistant Chief Constable Jeremy Burton said: “DDTROs are a valuable new resource that law enforcement can use in our continuing work with partners to combat the scourge of illicit drugs in local communities.
“It is already clear that they can help disrupt dealing activity and produce extra valuable intelligence for us about organised crime groups.
“But they have to be used as part of our overall strategic approach to this type of organised criminality, and they need to be closely co-ordinated with our operational work including arrests and seizures of phones.”
DDTROs were introduced under the Digital Economy Act and came into force on December 7, 2017.
The restrictions require communications providers to take action against phones used by drug dealers, which usually means closing the lines down.
Sussex Police implemented two DDTROs against two numbers on January 25, which it claims marked the first use of the power in the UK.
Another two lines, also involved in cocaine dealing, were closed on April 20.
Three days later, five more numbers relating to a separate alleged heroin and crack cocaine network were silenced.
Kujedesi Pista, 36, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to supply Class A drugs through one of the lines in April and awaits sentencing in September.
Hynsi Tafa, 46, has been charged with conspiracy to supply Class A drugs and will appear at Lewes Crown Court on May 19.
Another two men and a 17-year-old boy have been charged with being concerned in the supply of heroin and crack cocaine.
Sussex police and crime commissioner Katy Bourne said: “Officers will welcome the DDTROs as an effective addition to their drug-busting armoury, and the approach that offers support for dependent drug users.
“The 35 arrests resulting from the drug line investigations is sending a clear message to drug gangs that they cannot expect an easy ride in Sussex.”
Crime, Safeguarding and Vulnerability Minister Victoria Atkins added: “I welcome the hard work and commitment from forces to tackle these criminals and their effective use of this new legislation proves how we can work together to prevent serious crime.”