Crossbow and mace found by police during West Lothian drugs raid
Telltale signs of drug dealing are strewn across the crumpled bed sheet – tin foil, scales and a blue plastic bag bulging with a £300 stash of heroin.
The Evening News yesterday joined police at the pointy end of their fight against drugs by taking part in a series of dawn raids across West Lothian.
DI Paul Batten told dealers: “100 per cent we will be there. We will keep going day and night. They need to keep looking over their shoulders.”
Moments earlier, burly balaclava-clad riot police struggled to smash through the reinforced front door of the Blackburn family home. They entered to find a middle-aged couple lying spaced out on settees.
Their son is helped from the flat visibly distressed until he sees the smiling face of his care worker and heads for his welcoming arms.
Then the room-by-room search can begin, led by four-year-old Labrador Juke as the family’s pet cat is cradled by an officer outside.
Neighbours wake and watch from gardens or bathroom windows – any vantage point that the neighbourhood allows.
Back inside and above the bed in the front room, weapons hang menacingly from the wall – a ceremonial dagger, crossbow and medieval-style mace.
Tip-offs of such potential dangers are part of the reason riot police are called upon despite the lad’s presence, says Superintendent Craig Smith.
“We don’t want to take any risks and we’re looking after the welfare of the people in there as well,” he said.
“It means we can get control of the house. We can protect the police officers involved and also offer a level of protection to the occupants – make them clear police officers are coming in.”
Yesterday’s raids saw multiple warrants executed on homes, garages and cars, with about 100 officers drafted in from across the Lothians and Borders.
Acting on tip-offs from the public, police were looking for suspected dealers spreading drug-fuelled misery across West Lothian.
“It could be weeks or months in the planning,” Supt Smith said. “We listen to the concerns of the communities.
“Community officers will go to meetings and get concerns about drug dealing and antisocial behaviour. That’s then fed into a central intelligence system, which will decide what form of action we take.”
Any intelligence of dealing from an address is gathered and then presented to the Crown and warrants requested, Supt Smith said.
The raids are part of the Operation Newbury crackdown on drugs that included busting a £50,000 cannabis farm in Bathgate on Thursday.
Back in the flat, Juke is continuing to sniff out any suspicious evidence. A money box grabs his attention and his reward of a tennis ball toy beckons.
“The public are fed up about it and it’s come to a head,” DI Batten said, steely in his resolve to tackle dealers head-on.
“There’s antisocial behaviour going on as well, with groups coming to the address.
“We’re disrupting the networks of suppliers because these streets have families in them. There’s good people here, but pockets of suppliers.
“That’s what we’re doing here, what we’ve been doing over the last few weeks as well and will continue to do.
“We’re responding to the community and going at their behest. We’re going in to disrupt and take stuff away.
“For me, it’s all about being visible. We’ve got the leads from the community and we’ve pulled the resources together from across Police Scotland.
“Through co-ordinated activity, we will continue to target those responsible for violence and drugs.
“By working closely with the public over the last two weeks we have successfully removed from our streets in excess of £100,000 of drugs. I can assure the public that any information relating to violence or drug activity will be acted upon appropriately and handled in a discreet manner.”
Back at Livingston police station, DI Batten presents a 12-inch Rambo-style knife in an evidence box – its jagged edge glinting beneath the interview room lights.
The knife was confiscated from the flat that was raided by officers, along with £290 cash by detectives on Thursday, the night before the raid, as they arrested a robbery suspect.
The 28-year-old is accused of putting the knife to a man’s throat before stealing the cash and splitting his head open with the blade’s handle. For DI Batten, it starkly illustrates the links between drugs and violent crime – and their impact on innocent people who can get caught up in the crossfire.
He ponders for a moment, saying: “Blackburn’s not a bad place. There’s normal people here and they want us to act against all these drugs.”