Five people were arrested after police raided addresses in the north-east, and Merseyside as part of a bid to bring down those peddling controlled drugs.
Searches were carried out at different addresses in Fraserburgh and Aberdeen.
There were also raids in Merseyside – and police say they were aiming to target an organised crime group from Liverpool which is running a county lines drug operation in the Fraserburgh area.
The Evening Express and Press and Journal were given exclusive access to the early-morning raids – as part of Operation Moonfish – which saw five people arrested.
In Fraserburgh officers targeted properties in Faithlie Street, Allochy Road and Buchan Place while in the city a home in North Anderson Drive was also searched in the hunt for those involved in the gang.
Both uniformed and plain-clothes officers hit multiple homes in unison during the early hours in a bid to catch those suspected of being involved by surprise.
Vulnerable people getting ‘dragged in’
Chief Inspector Jamie Harrison said the crackdown on drug-dealing and exploitation was his “top priority” and one he believes people in Fraserburgh are keen to see tackled.
“It’s absolutely one of the top priorities for me as the local area commander to have appropriate measures in place to tackle those who are responsible for supplying controlled drugs in this area,” he said.
“I see it locally as the thing that causes the greatest harm in our communities. I often think to myself if I was a young mother living in Peterhead of Fraserburgh, what would I expect the police to do? And very much I would expect the police to ensure my children were safe going forward.
“I see it as my personal responsibility to ensure we are working on this effectively.”
He said his officers support CID by carrying out stop searches and following up on intelligence locally.
“I am conscious of the harm that this causes in our communities,” he added. “I’m conscious there are people who are vulnerable getting dragged into the supply of controlled drugs.
“One thing we see more frequently is young people, particularly teens from the north of England, coming up here to sell drugs.
“We work with local authorities to ensure that when we identify young people involved in this we are doing everything we can to remove them from these criminal associations, take them home and see them well looked after with appropriate measures going forward.”
Supporting victims of ‘cuckooing’
He said the force is placing particular focus on identifying and helping those involved in ‘Cuckooing‘, the term used by police for when drug dealers take over the home of a vulnerable person in order to use it as a base for drug trafficking.
The crime is named for the cuckoo’s practice of taking over other birds’ nests for its young.
Chief Inspector Harrison added: “We also have concerns about vulnerable people locally being exploited by those that are involved in the sale and supply of drugs.
“We work with partnership interventions and the local authority and we will intervene, visit these people and make sure they are well.
“We seize every opportunity to do this that we can.”
He urged anyone with concerns about drug use and supply in their area to report them to Police Scotland.
He added: “This really is the priority for me and I would appeal to the public if they have any information or concerns about people selling controlled drugs in their communities to please tell us about it.
“We will respond and we will do something about it. We will do everything we can to keep people safe and stop those involved in supplying controlled drugs from operating locally.”
Heads of gang thought to be in England
Detective Inspector Martyn Thomson, of Aberdeen CID, said the Operation Moonfish raids were taking place simultaneously with others south of the border aimed at “taking out the principals” of the gang in Merseyside.
“It’s a county line being operated from Liverpool and being ran in the Fraserburgh area,” he added.
“We were aiming to target this organised crime group who have been exploiting vulnerable people locally and bringing drugs into our area.
“There were two warrants executed in Liverpool by our officers working with those in Merseyside Constabulary against the principal members of the group.
“There were also a further four warrants there against other members of the crime group.”
Five due to appear in court
Two women, aged 41 and 39, and one 45-year-old man were arrested in Fraserburgh. Another two men, aged 27 and 32, were arrested in Liverpool. All five are due to appear at Aberdeen Sheriff Court tomorrow.
Anyone with concerns or information about those involved in drugs can call Police Scotland on 101 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.