THE ringleader of a gang of drug dealers who spread misery on a housing estate has been jailed for four years following a landmark legal action brought about by police and council chiefs.
John Kitchen and nine other members of the gang were rounded up after spy cameras were set up to catch them selling cannabis in broad daylight in Seacroft, Leeds.
The gang created a nightmare for residents who were too afraid to report what was happening through fear of revenge attacks.
Eight members of the gang were sentenced at Leeds Crown Court in February after pleading guilty to conspiracy to supply controlled drugs.
Kitchen, 24, of Tarnside Drive, Seacroft, has now been given a four-year sentence after judge Tom Bayliss, QC, described him as the organiser of the operation.
CCTV footage showed Kitchen taking mobile phone calls, directing other members of the gang and handling cash. He was also seen giving instructions to a 16-year-old drug dealer.
Mark Deval Hall, 26, of Inglewood Drive, Seacroft, was jailed for two years. The court heard he acted as a driver during the operation.
Judge Bayliss said: “You were both part of a criminal enterprise. It had an enormous impact on the community in which you live.
“That is a community of many thousands of decent people, normal, working people who just want to live their lives in peace.”
Officers launched Operation Boypark to catch key members of the group who come from long established families in the Seacroft area. Injunctions were secured under the Housing Act to remove them from the area where they blighted so many lives.
The operation was launched in the summer of 2013 in response to a sharp rise of complaints of people congregating in the street and selling drugs.
There were also incidents of violence against members of the public and police. The estate was also plagued with gang members driving dangerously around the estate in cars and quad bikes as they dealt drugs.
Up to 40 people at a time would gather in the street as drug deals were made.
The gang operated a drug order line which took around 2,500 calls over a 46 day period during which it was monitored.
Over a 22 day period in July 2013, 328 separate instances of drug dealing were filmed.
Chief Insp Chris Bowen, who heads neighbourhood policing in north-east Leeds, said: “Kitchen was the ringleader of this group whose criminal and anti-social behaviour had a massive negative impact on the lives of the law-abiding majority of people on the estate.
“He and the others involved created a climate of fear and knew that other residents would not speak out against them.
“Operation Boypark dismantled this organised criminal network and removed them from the area through a combination of civil injunctions, criminal prosecutions and other mechanisms aimed at affecting their behaviour.
“It should clearly demonstrate to others how effective partnership work by the police and council can be in providing long-term solutions to ongoing issues that impact on people’s quality of life.”