Wellington police arrest 55 on drugs charges

11:23, Nov 24 2009

Wellington police have arrested 55 people and frozen bank accounts worth $200,000 following extensive drug-related busts over the past seven days.

Detective Inspector Darrin Thomson of the Wellington Metro CIB said the focus of the week-long Operation Cobra was on drug offending. Officers carried out searches and made arrests in Wellington City, Lower and Upper Hutt, Kapiti Mana and the Wairarapa.

Mr Thomson called the results of the raids "terrific".

"We have caused significant disruption amongst those people involved in the drug trade and I am sure this operation sends a clear message that we are actively policing this offending," he said.

The raids had netted "well in excess of $100,000 worth of drugs" and 55 arrests so far, with police seeking a number of other people who were yet to be located. Some of those arrested were already on probation, he said.

Over 200 charges will be laid in respect to the alleged offending including manufacturing methamphetamine, manufacturing heroin, possession of morphine for supply and supplying morphine, supplying methamphetamine and possession for supply of methamphetamine.

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Cannabis charges include producing cannabis oil, cultivation of cannabis and supplying cannabis.

Those arrested also face firearms and theft charges.

Mr Thomson said there were some associations between those arrested but not all were connected.

"It’s not focusing on one entity, you might say, other than the common theme is drugs."

Police had also liaised closely with a number of other departments including the courts, probation and Child Youth and Family.

A number of children were located in the homes "in what we would suggest is not a safe environment" and were now in the care of Child Youth and Family.

It was the seventh raid of this type in the last five years, resulting in over 400 arrests.

Mr Thomson said police were "very, very happy" with progress so far.

"We’ve kicked in 300 doors, arrested 400 people, seized hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of drugs and in this particular occasion we’re obviously looking pretty closely at some people’s assets."

This included four dwellings and over $200,000 in frozen bank accounts from the latest operation. These would remain frozen until the former owners were convicted or released.

Police were expecting the Criminal Proceeds Recovery Act which comes into effect in December to give them more extensive powers when it came to such operations, particularly in regards to asset seizures.

The legislation allowed for the creation of a central asset recovery team including investigators and analysts that would be based in the main centres and would allow police "far more teeth in this type of area", he said.

"It brings with it a civil environment as well as a civil regime so we’re very much looking forward to that."

This close to Christmas he expected the seizure to have a "disruption" effect but said the battle would go on.

Police expected that drugs would come into the area from outside but said they were prepared.

"It's like the tide going out.  You certainly see the tide does go out for a while but as the tide comes in every day the drug offending will come back and that’s when we kick into gear again," he said.

"There will always be people that are going to bring misery to other people’s lives with these sorts of illicit substances so we will continue to police this area very vigilantly."

There were no incidents during the operation which had been in planning for three months and involved more than 80 police staff.

The raids carry on a successful week for police in the North Island with 24 people arrested during a two-day operation in South Waikato on drug charges.

- With NZPA

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