DETECTIVES have hailed the success of a series of early-morning raids targeting suspected drug dealers which resulted in eight arrests across County Durham and Darlington.

On Thursday, Durham Police confirmed suspects arrested in yesterday's raids have since released under investigation.

More than 80 officers and staff swooped on seven addresses in Newton Aycliffe, Bishop Auckland, Darlington and Ushaw Moor, near Durham, at 7.30am on Wednesday.

Simultaneous raids were carried out at properties in the West Yorkshire, Lancashire and Cleveland areas on behalf Durham Police.

Five men aged between 21 and 45 and a 21-year-old woman were arrested in County Durham.

The woman and one man were arrested during raids at two properties on Pemberton Road, in Woodham, Newton Aycliffe, while another man was arrested at a raid elsewhere in the town.

A 42-year-old man was also arrested in West Yorkshire, while a 24-year-old man was arrested in Lancashire.

All were detained on suspicion of conspiracy to supply of Class A drugs (cocaine), and some on suspicion of conspiracy to supply Class B drugs (cannabis).

At one address in Woodham, one machete and two gas-powered air rifles were seized.

Elsewhere in the county half a kilo of cannabis was seized as well as a four-figure sum of cash, a motorbike and jewellery.

Among the addresses raided in the Newton Aycliffe area was a container on Aycliffe Industrial Estate where a large number of items related to growing cannabis were found including foil piping, heaters, lamps and tent poles.

The raids were part of Operation Sledgehammer, the force’s long-running campaign to tackle serious and organised crime.

Speaking on Wednesday, Detective Chief Inspector Nicola Lawrence, of Durham Police, said: “Today's operation has been a huge success and is the culmination of months of hard work and investigation.

“It would not have been possible without the support we have had from local communities who continue to come forward with vital pieces of information about ongoing drug crime in their area.

“I hope today’s action send out a clear message that we will not tolerate criminality of this nature in our force area, and we will take action to dismantle, disrupt and destroy these networks.”

Chief Inspector Sarah Honeyman, from Newton Aycliffe Neighbourhood Police Team, said the raids were the result of a job in January.

She said: “Since January there has been a lot of work behind the scenes gathering intelligence and evidence towards the operation.

“Now we have people in custody over the next few days there will be ongoing work to hopefully bring charges."

Chf Insp Honeyman added: “I want to reassure the community that we’re taking positive action against people dealing drugs in our community which makes the community and our children safer, and they shouldn’t be alarmed by what they’ve seen.

“The local neighbourhood policing team for each area will be out and about and spreading the reassurance message by going house to house as well as on social media and at PACT meetings.

“If anyone has concerns, particularly if they suspect drugs and people living beyond their means, contact police.”

  • Anyone with any information about drug dealing and crime in their area should call Durham Police on 101, or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.