More than 30 serious criminals have been arrested across the South West as part of the UK’s biggest ever law enforcement operation.
Operation Venetic has seen entire organised crime groups dismantled, with almost 750 arrests and the seizure of £54million of criminal cash, 77 firearms and more than two tonnes of drugs to date.
As part of the major operation, the South West Regional Organised Crime Unit (SWROCU) has arrested 31 people and seized £790,000 in cash, 10 EncroChat phones and 23kg of cocaine and other drugs.
The operation, run by the National Crime Agency (NCA) with help from police forces across the country, involved the infiltration of an encrypted global communications system used by criminals for co-ordinating and distributing their illegal goods.
Selaine Saxby, MP for North Devon, praised the efforts of the NCA and South West police officers in taking criminals, weapons and drugs off our streets.
“This interagency operation has been a major success, showing that this government will be tough on crime and will not allow criminals to bring weapons and drugs to our streets.
“I am grateful to our police force for their crucial part in the operation and I am sure the people of North Devon would join me in thanking them in their dedication to keeping our communities and families safe.
Devon and Cornwall Police and Crime Commissioner Alison Hernandez said:
“Drugs and weapons are a scourge on our society. Our community is now that bit safer with these individuals taken off our streets. Our forces in the South West work together with the National Crime Agency sharing intelligence to thwart criminals and will continue to do so. Well done to all involved.”
Home Secretary Priti Patel said:
“This operation demonstrates that criminals will not get away with using encrypted devices to plot vile crimes under the radar.
“The NCA’s relentless targeting of these gangs has helped to keep us all safe. I congratulate them and law enforcement partners on this significant achievement.
“I will continue working closely with the NCA and others to tackle the use of such devices – giving them the resources, powers and tools they need to keep our country safe.”