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Chief Inspector discusses progress of Suffolk Police Scorpion team

PUBLISHED: 15:00 05 January 2018 | UPDATED: 15:22 05 January 2018

The Scorpion/Drug Team was launched by Suffolk Police in 2015. Picture: Suffolk Constabulary

The Scorpion/Drug Team was launched by Suffolk Police in 2015. Picture: Suffolk Constabulary

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Summer 2015 saw Suffolk Constabulary launch its Scorpion team, a new police wing designed to proactively disrupt criminal activity.

The team specialises in tackling drug crime across the region. Picture: Suffolk ConstabularyThe team specialises in tackling drug crime across the region. Picture: Suffolk Constabulary

Since its formation, the team - split into east, south and west branches - has been prioritising a mass crackdown on drugs trafficking, as well as working to combat child sex offences, deny criminals use of the roads and make prisons safer places.

All those in the Scorpion Team are highly-skilled and experienced public order officers with training in searches, surveillance and drugs identification.

Overseeing proceedings in the east zone, which stretches from Lowestoft to Snape Maltings, is chief inspector Sarsfield Donohue.

Among the unit’s primary objectives is to eliminate a process that sees vulnerable young people exploited and sent from London to rural areas for the purpose of drugs trafficking.

This is known as ‘county lines’ and, on a Suffolk basis, was first detected in Ipswich before spreading further afield to Lowestoft.

Looking back on a year-and-a-half of intense drug enforcement, not to mention the work done prior to the Scorpion’s official formation, Ch Insp Donohue says the team can be pleased with their efforts.

Chief Inspector Sarsfield Donohue from Suffolk Police. Picture: Suffolk ConstabularyChief Inspector Sarsfield Donohue from Suffolk Police. Picture: Suffolk Constabulary

“The Scorpion team has had some really good results and the lack of discernible drugs activity by county lines is real testament to our work,” said Ch Insp Donohue.

“Once we identify the county lines dealers involved in Lowestoft, we set about investigating their business model, how they operate and their cuckooing (taking over the homes of vulnerable people to sell drugs).

“We work closely with vulnerable victims and let people know that the police are aware of their premises being used for drugs purposes, before gathering the proof required in order to evict.

“For us it’s about breaking the chain, breaking the link; the problem is that vulnerable people who are being used are often afraid to come and speak to us because they have been threatened with violence.”

On a local basis, as opposed to county lines, Suffolk Police seldom face the same sort of issues when it comes to drugs crime, but there are occasions where sustained local investigation really pays dividends.

“The arrest and conviction of Jason Grimes from Lowestoft was an intelligence-led operation run by the Scorpion team,” added Ch Insp Donohue. “We’ve reduced so much crime by taking that core person out of the equation.

The Scorpion East branch of the team has made 20 arrests related to the dealing or supplying of class A drugs over the last 12 months. Picture: Suffolk ConstabularyThe Scorpion East branch of the team has made 20 arrests related to the dealing or supplying of class A drugs over the last 12 months. Picture: Suffolk Constabulary

“In total, the East Scorpion team has made 20 significant drugs arrests (involved in class A dealing or supplying) over the last 12 months.”

Despite the quell of drug distribution playing such a prominent role in the unit’s daily activities, officers are otherwise on hand to respond to an extensive variety of criminal activity, as Ch Insp Donohue explains.

“In addition to drug operations, we also work with Paedophile and Online Investigation Team (POLIT) on cases of child pornography,” he said. “In a recent case there was an individual identified as being involved and the Scorpion team secured the necessary warrant.

“There can also be involvement with prisons, where we assist the service and a take a day or two of action with disruption operations.

“Another team we cooperate with is the Roads Policing Unit, by work with the DVSA and customs to deny criminals use of the roads.”

The East Scorpion team’s officers evidently have their own efficient methods of conducting operations, but input from the general public should not be understated.

After all, their operations are based on intelligence and where better to retrieve it than from the local community itself.

“One issue we face is that offenders move quickly from place to place and we’re forced to play catch up, so we really do rely on intelligence from the community,” said Ch Insp Donohue.

“If you see something suspicious, tell us about it via 101 or Crimestoppers because it all forms part of the intelligence picture.

“Magistrates always want a minimum amount of corroboration; even if the public only give us snippets of information, when we put them all together it can make a big difference.”

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