DRUG BLITZ

BY DAVID MARSH AND MATTHEW TAYLOR A haven for drug dealers has been smashed in the biggest anti-social behaviour operation the country has seen.

A total of 66 people were served with orders banning them from the Little London area of Leeds – the highest number of such orders issued at one time.

Among those given the anti-social behaviour order (Asbo) bans were dealers, users and the lookouts – some of them children as young as 10.

Sixteen of the orders have already been broken. Police have taken action over those breaches including locking people up.

Coun Keith Wakefield, Labour council leader, had visited the area in recent weeks and said he was "genuinely shocked" by what he had seen.

"Drug abuse is an evil that destroys lives and that is why I am determined to do all I can to stamp it out."

Police believe there could be as many as 12 dealers operating in the Blackman Lane area of Little London at any one time. A video showing drugs being openly bought in the street was shown at the Asbo hearings in court this week.

Chairman of the Little London Tenants and residents Association Frank Pollen said of the crackdown: "We really do welcome this. This street has been a problem for a while and I've seen them myself outside the church openly dealing drugs in broad daylight."

Coun Wakefield pledged more crackdowns in the coming weeks and months. "This is merely the beginning of what is to come," he said.

He said of the drug problem and yobbish behaviour: "Such behaviour is simply unacceptable and that is why we have this week served a record number of orders on those who feel they can act however badly they like and get away with it."

The blitz was welcomed by Home Secretary David Blunkett who said Leeds was leading the way in the fight against drug dealers and yobs.

He said: "This operation will make Leeds a safer city. The Asbos are an important tool in our fight against criminals and yobs."

Coun Gerry Harper (Labour, University), whose ward covers Little London area, said the raids were a huge blow, struck for decent people who lived in the neighbourhood.

"People from the area are coming up to me and saying well done," he told the YEP. "At last their streets are being reclaimed. Whilst there is still much to do this is a massive step in the right direction."

Chief Supt Ian Levitt, Divisional Commander at Pudsey-Weetwood said the police were determined to crack down on crime hotspots across West Yorkshire.

He said the main objectives of the Asbo blitz in Little London were to:

• Remove the illegal drugs market;

• Remove young people from a criminal lifestyle;

• Reassure the public.

He said that the Woodhouse, Hyde Park and Little London areas had seen a high level of supply of controlled drugs which has attracted drug users and other criminals. Traditional policing methods had failed to produce a lasting change. "The current operation demonstrates the innovative approach that the police along with other partners are taking to tackle these problems," he said.

david.marsh@ypn.co.uk