Project Optimise operation targeting drugs gangs in Swindon
A Swindon man who was one of the main leaders of an Organised Criminal Gang in the Eldene area of Swindon has been jailed for more than four years.
Grant Townsend, aged 23, from Norwood Close, Liden was sentenced to four-years-and-two-months in prison at Swindon Crown Court on Wednesday (18/11) for two counts of possession with intent to supply crack cocaine and heroin, two counts of supplying crack cocaine and heroin and one count of witness intimidation in a separate case.
He pleaded guilty to all five counts.
His arrest was a result of Operation Samphire where Townsend was caught selling controlled substances to an undercover police officer.
He was also the target of a year long operation called Operation Theseus, which is still ongoing, into his involvement with a criminal gang operating in the Eldene area which supply drugs, using weapons and violence to help carry out their dealings.
Working alongside our local partners, there are currently 27 live investigations being carried out in relation to this operation with, so far, police making 75 arrests in the area, seizing approximately £80,000 worth of drugs and between £40,000 and £50,000 in cash and assets. Several weapons and drugs were also discovered at a private address during a recent arrest warrant (see attached photos).
Inspector Barry Reed said: "The jailing of Townsend is a fantastic result reflecting the seriousness of this man's criminal activity and his involvement in the hierarchy of this Organised Criminal Gang (OCG).
"This gang, operating in this area of Swindon, started out as a street gang which grew through contacts with criminals outside of the town and the exploitation of young people who become "debt bonded" to the gang; and so, a bit like a modern slavery case, are unable to escape and have to stay to work off a debt - often by being forced to deal drugs under the threat of extreme and serious violence.
"We have found young vulnerable people often fearful of these gang leaders but feel trapped and have nowhere to go.
"We have multi-agency interventions set up to try and safeguard and protect these youths moving forward.
"Swindon Police's work in disrupting this OCG in the past 12 months and the resulting jailing of Townsend, and earlier this year Parfitt and Betterton, has impacted on this group's ability to continue their criminal activities.
"I look forward to working further with our partner agencies and parish councils to help improve the lives of those living in the Eldene and Liden areas."
In relation to the local community impact, Supt Phil Staynings said: "The ongoing good work to crack down on these Organised Criminal Gangs is crucial to help the majority of hard working, innocent people living in the community; these individuals have no care for the area they target.
"Hard working people see these criminals living what appears to be a life of luxury having lots of money for little effort through their illegal activities.
"However, I hope the message is getting through that those who break the law will be caught and prosecuted.
"We will not tolerate criminal behaviour by these groups and we will continue to work alongside our partner agencies to deal with these people and put an end to gang crime in Eldene.”
Police and Crime Commissioner Angus Macpherson said: ""This is great proactive work carried out by our officers under the Project Optimise banner; not only curbing this type of criminality but also sending the right message to the actual people living in local communities that the police are taking your reports and intelligence seriously.
"Drugs on all levels - whether taking or dealing - not only destroy lives but ricochet affects throughout our towns and villages - hitting innocent people.
"This work is part of the bigger picture to tackle all types of crime in Swindon and Wiltshire."
This work falls under Project Optimise – the force’s approach to serious and organised crime. The community plays a vital role in helping us tackle serious and organised crime, which can range from drugs and violence, to burglary and money laundering. If you suspect crime, call us on 101 or 999 in an emergency.