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Leeds drugs gangs: Undercover officers must be at ‘top of game’ every time

Detective Inspector Phil Jackson, of Leeds District CID, has praised the work of undercover officers who played a crucial part in the success of Operation Azureway.
Detective Inspector Phil Jackson, of Leeds District CID, has praised the work of undercover officers who played a crucial part in the success of Operation Azureway.

Undercover officers put themselves in the line of danger to gather overwhelming evidence against drug dealers operating in Leeds, spending months posing as addicts who needed to buy heroin and crack cocaine on a daily basis.

While other officers involved in Operation Azureway were always nearby should the situation turn violent, there is no doubt that they faced the very real risk of being hurt before support teams would be able to reach them.

Read more: How landmark undercover police operation put dozens of dealers behind bars

Surveillance teams captured footage of deals carried out in the street, while hidden cameras recorded those conducted inside properties used by the gangs.

Detective Inspector Phil Jackson, of Leeds District CID, said: “The undercover officers do a very difficult job and they have to be at the top of their game every time they deploy.

“While they risk assess what they’re going into, it’s still going into the unknown.”

Three undercover officers – one male and two female – were drafted in to work alongside the Leeds-based detectives as they built a comprehensive case against those involved in the operation of numerous ‘ring and bring’ drug dealing phone lines.

Posing as drug users, they would each call one of the lines two or three times daily to arrange the purchase of Class A drugs and head to the meeting point.

In some cases, this meant entering houses occupied by men wearing balaclavas and potentially armed with knives, guns or other weapons.

Read more: Deadly weapons seized by Leeds police after undercover operation

The female officers also had to contend with demands from some of the men that they perform sexual acts in exchange for the drugs, leaving them in the terrifying position of having to talk their way out of the situation without betraying their cover.

Their bravery in these high pressure situations was highlighted by the judge who praised them for the crucial role they had played in building the case.

Det Insp Jackson said: “They deserve every credit and accolade that they get because of what they put themselves through to get the results for the team and West Yorkshire.”