Police arrested eight members of a Lewisham-based criminal network this morning, as dawn raids took place across London, Kent and Hampshire.
The operation – code named Operation Pibera – targeted a gang who are believed to have trafficked young girls and boys from south-east London to Hampshire and Kent, in order to transport Class A drugs.
The major intelligence-led operation is part of the Met’s ongoing crackdown on gang crime and was the result of a partnership with Lewisham Council and support from the Ending Gang and Youth Violence frontline team, led by the Home Office.
Acting Chief Superintendent Neil Evans, Lewisham Borough Police, said: “We have worked closely with our partners identifying those children at risk and involved in criminality.
“Today’s operation is the culmination of that work and will send a clear message to those who think that using of children is acceptable. We, as a community know it is not. And those that traffic children for their criminality are not welcome in Lewisham and it will not be tolerated.”
A total of 11 addresses were raided from 5am, including three in Lewisham, and eight people were arrested on suspicion of conspiracy to supply Class A drugs, inciting supply of Class A drugs, child trafficking and money laundering.
So far a large quantity of crack cocaine and what is believed to be a press used to package drugs have been recovered, as well as £1,500 in cash.
Among the eight arrested from across the UK was an 18-year-old man from Lewisham.
Detective Superintendent Tim Champion of the Trident Gang Crime Command said: “Today’s activity is the result of Trident’s continued work with borough and UK colleagues to target the most ‘high risk’ offenders to keep communities, young people in London safe.
“Today’s operation should serve as a clear message to those who think they are above the law. If you use young people to support your criminal activity – we will focus our efforts on you. You will be caught, you will be arrested and you will be placed before the courts.