Fifteen people have been arrested in dawn drugs raids which also uncovered what is thought to be a puppy farm in the North East.
Around 200 police officers, including officers from the National Crime Agency (NCA), swooped on houses near Durham city shortly after 6am yesterday.
Durham Constabulary described it as “the largest intelligence led operation we have ever been involved in”.
The operation, which saw raids in Leeds, Liverpool, Shropshire and Manchester as well as County Durham was part of Operation Russett and is part of a concerted drive to stem the supply of illegal drugs and tackle organised crime.
Police arrested 12 men aged between 24 and 49, two women aged mid-20s to early 30s, and a youth on conspiracy to supply Class A drugs. They were last night being interviewed at local stations.
Drugs and vehicles have been seized by officers and the RSPCA are now investigating the suspected puppy farm.
Detective Sgt Nicola Lawrence said: “The arrests are as a result of a long-running, proactive police investigation aimed at disrupting those suspected of being involved in the supply of drugs.
“The police and the NCA cannot tackle this issue on their own. I would like to thank those who continue to assist us by providing information.”
Chief Inspector Elaine Taylor from Durham’s Response command added: “This is the largest intelligence led operation that Durham Constabulary has ever been involved in. The operation has seen arrests made in Leeds, Manchester, Liverpool and Market Drayton as well as on the outskirts of Durham city.
“We will not tolerate criminals operating in this force area.
“Those who deal in drugs are often part of a wider criminal network and by taking action against them we are sending out a clear message to others involved in criminality that we will continue to dismantle, disrupt and destroy these networks.”
Officers said cannabis, amphetamine and three vehicles have been seized and a large amount of drugs and other evidence have been secured during the investigation.
The RSPCA have been contacted after the discovery of a puppy farm at an address in Durham, and police said further investigations will take place regarding the legitimacy of the farm.
Neighbourhood Chief Inspector Andy Huddleston said, “The operation has been an overwhelming success.
“This twelve-month long campaign would not have been possible without the support of local people who have given us invaluable information.
“Organised crime affects everybody and today’s activity shows that we will act in response to community concerns and put criminals out of business.”
Anyone with information about drug-dealing or any other criminal activity in their area can call the police on 101.
Alternatively, call Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111 to pass on what you know. Calls to the charity can be anonymous.