THIRTEEN people were arrested in the biggest-ever crackdown on organised drug crime in Nelson.

More than 100 police raided 12 addresses yesterday morning.

Police said they were trying to stem a trade in crack cocaine and heroin causing ‘mayhem’ in East Lancashire.

Superintendent Damian Darcy, who led the operation, said those held were thought to be ‘among the most significant players’ in the county’s drugs trade.

He said the raids were the climax of six months of evidence gathering.

More than 20 police vehicles dodged morning traffic to get to the private houses from just after 8.20am and searches continued throughout the day.

Officers with search warrants granted by courts used ‘door enforcer’ equipment to get into the buildings.

Supt Darcy said: “I felt the operation went very well. The people we are targeting have caused significant mayhem in their neighbourhoods.

“These are not street-level dealers, they are people who have used threats of violence and intimidation in Nelson and Brierfield.

“These people have ruined lives. They are responsible for a significant amount of class A drug dealing all across East Lancashire and also supply other dealers beyond.”

Ten warrants were executed in Nelson on St Pauls Road, Larch Street, Burns Street, Gordon Road, Victoria Street, Beaufort Street, Railway Street, Every Street and Chapel House Road.

An address in Townley Street, Briercliffe was also raided along with another in Victoria Avenue, Brierfield.

Eleven men and two woman, aged between 18 and 42, were arrested on suspicion of possession with intent to supply class A drugs.

They were in custody last night being questioned by detectives.

Supt Darcy said the operation, codenamed Aba, was the climax of intelligence and evidence-gathering over the past six months and was part of a wider, ongoing operation in Pendle, codenamed Regenerate.

He said: “These arrests will have a significant impact on the community. It’s fair to say it’s the largest operation ever in Nelson, but this is just the beginning.

“We will continue to tackle the problem of class A drugs and there will be more arrests soon. These people are part of a gang, acting together and having a serious impact on neighbourhoods. They are all connected.

“The secondary impact of crime and anti-social behaviour caused by addicts is an issue across the country.

“We have carried out a number of raids and we hope that this shows residents that we are taking action to deal with the problems that are affecting their neighbourhoods.”

Pendle MP Andrew Stephenson, who recently raised the issue of drug offences and convictions in Parliament, said: “The raiding of 12 properties in Brierfield and Nelson this morning, using police resources from across Lancashire is an almost unprecedented operation, but something I and the whole community will welcome.

“Illegal drugs destroy lives and we should allow no hiding place for the criminals that prey on the vulnerable and profit from other people’s misery.”

“This police operation is about taking some of the ringleaders out and making our towns safer for everyone. I hope it will send out a very clear message that no-one is above the law.”

Councillor Eileen Ansar, whose Clover Hill ward was among the areas targeted, said: “We don’t want these people in the area. So many young people get caught up in crime because of drugs and I was glad to see the police taking action.”

Members of the neighbourhood police teams in Nelson, Briercliffe and Brierfield carried out reassurance patrols followinf the raids to explain to residents what was happening and to gather feedback.