Taskforce re-established to counter drug import threat

ORGANISED crime groups could attempt to flood the Island with illegal drugs once border restrictions are loosened, Jersey’s police chief has said as the force re-established its drugs taskforce.

States police chief Robin Smith. Picture: JON GUEGAN. (30009292)
States police chief Robin Smith. Picture: JON GUEGAN. (30009292)

Robin Smith said that he expected a rise in attempted drug importations following a drop-off in recent months during the pandemic.

A team of eight officers will focus on drug-related investigations such as Operation Shark – an initiative launched in February of last year, shortly after a teenager died from taking MDMA. The operation has resulted in £50,000 of seizures so far.

The previous drug squad was last operational around 2012, although the priority crime team maintained drug-related work in the interim.

Mr Smith said: ‘Intelligence suggests that there has actually been a drop-off in drug importation during lockdown. However I am certain that when the borders open up there will be an increase in criminal groups trying to import drugs into the Island.

‘Criminals will not be idle in their thinking, and neither will the States of Jersey Police. This will be a feared team for those who are looking to import drugs – a number of the team are members of previous proactive teams and I am very confident in them.’

The team will continue to work closely with Jersey Customs in addition to the recently deployed community policing team and will also make use of the force’s detection dog – a springer spaniel called Jack, who is trained to find drugs, cash and guns. Meanwhile, the Serious Crime Unit – which focuses on serious assaults and major thefts among other crimes – has changed its name back to the Criminal Investigation Department.

‘One of our key roles is to catch criminals and in doing so protect Islanders,’ said Mr Smith. ‘We aim to achieve better knowledge sharing and suitable resourcing to disrupt and prevent the work of those responsible for drug crime within our community.

‘By increasing our team to work with law enforcement partners and prosecutors we can ensure we use the most effective means to disrupt criminal groups. My warning to those considering importing or dealing drugs is we will find you and arrest you.

‘Illegal drugs can often be linked to organised crime within our community. They are known to put a strain on our health services, our economy and can tear apart families. It is our job to protect Jersey from these threats and continue to target those involved in drug-related crime in order to reduce the risks that illegal drugs pose to our community.’

Two attempts by organised crime groups to import drugs have led to lengthy sentences being handed down by the Royal Court in recent years. The largest importation the Island has seen took place in 2019 when Alexander David Cullen tried to bring £10 million worth of heroin into the Island and was jailed for 14 years.

And in 2019 – during what was described as one of the most complex drugs investigations ever undertaken by Jersey authorities – a crime ring was prevented from smuggling £919,000-worth of MDMA, cannabis and cocaine into Jersey. Those involved were eventually jailed for a collective total of almost 74 years.

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