Drug swoop on Gateway to the Isles

An army of 70 police officers swooped on homes in a West Coast town in the biggest drug trafficking raid Argyll has seen.

Large quantities of heroin were seized, along with lesser amounts of other drugs including cocaine, diazepam and cannabis, in a search of 12 houses and one hotel room in Oban yesterday morning. Seven males and three females were in custody last night.

As questioning continued, Oban's new police chief Brian Auld said: "This is still a work in progress, ten people are currently in police custody; as it currently stands five have been arrested and five detained under suspicion of drug trafficking offences.

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"In four of the premises we have had dealer quantities of heroin seized and it's away to forensics for weighing and purity level tests. It's a substantial amount of heroin, a significant drugs seizure for a town of this size.

"We have made a significant impact on those who are dealing drugs in the community and causing harm."

He added: "We are satisfied that one of the persons who is in custody with us just now is involved in the transportation of drugs into the community and their onward distribution."

Chief Inspector Auld, 46, has been in post only five weeks. He established Operation Independence in an immediate response to community concern at the drug problem in the small west coast town, known as the Gateway to the Isles.

He thanked members of the public for invaluable information given to police, in confidence, over four weeks of intelligence gathering.

Ch Insp Auld said: "We searched the 13 premises under warrant, not every one of them was occupied at the time of our visit."

He said the operation, which was supported by resources from Strathclyde Police headquarters crime division, gangs taskforce and dogs section, was the biggest of its kind carried out in the town.

Ch Insp Auld said: "When I arrived here, one of my commitments was to address the community needs and what the community was telling me. From attending community council meetings and talking to people on the street they were telling me their priority concern was drugs.

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"As a consequence of that community information, and the information that I gleaned, it led to today's activity. I am delighted with the information that I have received from the community and the efforts by my staff, we have made a significant impact.

"My objective now is to create a hostile environment within Oban for people who want to deal in misery, in drugs."He vowed: "This is just the start, this will be a continued programme of activity against drug dealers.

"The information I have received from the community has been invaluable and I can give them my personal assurance that not only will any information they give be given in confidence, it will be acted on."

As the raid will have left a gap in drug supplies in the town Ch Insp Auld urged users to seek help from the local community addiction service.