Drugs ring: Inside story on Gospel Oak drugs bust

While the QC drug ring has been broken and the streets “reclaimed” for the community, Camden’s police chief has warned that only time will tell if the operation was a success.

When Borough Commander Ch Supt John Sutherland first took up the reins, he made tackling violence, drugs and anti-social behaviour in Queen’s Crescent one of his top priorities.

He told the Ham&High: “What was absolutely clear was there was a small number of criminals who held a disproportionate sway over the community.

“They were exploiting the opportunities that existed there.”

Last week 14 men were sentenced on 62 counts of drug-related offences.

Blackfriars Crown Court heard how most of the young men were runners in the drugs market and the prosecution struggled to determine any hierarchy within the organisation.

Chf Supt Sutherland, who arrested one of the dealers during the undercover police operation on July 20, said: “The nature of the modern drugs trade is that there are layers of activity and indeed layers of organisation.

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“Of course we are trying to take out as many layers as possible, but the priority was to take out those who were directly affecting the community.

“Although we may not have dismantled the international drugs network, we did manage to undermine the local drugs trade in the area. You have to begin with what is most visible and most harmful.”

He has installed a new Safer Neighbourhood sergeant, Matthew Walters, who is “exactly who we need in that neighbourhood”.

A panel of residents, Camden Council staff and police will also discuss ongoing issues around drug-related youth violence.

“We would certainly never be complacent about it,” said Chf Supt Sutherland.

“The lucrative nature of the drugs trade will always mean people are willing to step up in order to make some fast money.

“What the operation did was create a window of opportunity to remove the criminal momentum and to restore the neighbourhood to the community.

“But I want to make this absolutely clear, we are only part way there. The real test will be how the area looks in a year or even five years.”