MY HEART was pounding as the unmarked police car I was travelling in rounded the corner into Norfolk Road, writes reporter Tom Cotterill.
I was sitting there waiting to report on a drugs bust taking place across Littlehampton, with specialist police striking at three properties – two in Norfolk Road and one in Arundel Road – simultaneously.
Gazette photographer Liz Pearce and I were travelling in convoy behind a riot van packed with police wearing body armour and armed with batons and tasers.
“Ten seconds out,” the officer to my right said over his radio as he began to undo his seat belt in preparation to spring out of the car when it stopped.
I followed suit. The vehicle’s engine revved as he manoeuvred it next to the flat’s front door.
And that’s when it happened, almost in the blink of an eye. Police streamed from the van in front, sprinting up to the door, shouting.
Ten seconds is the longest time it should take between officers leaving the van and breaching a property.
This team did it in less than five.
Using a red, metal battering ram, one officer struck the wooden frame of the door in front of him, blasting it open. Others then poured in, as he then turned and broke through the adjacent door – all of this happening while I was filming behind them.
About a dozen officers charged into the building shouting ‘Police!’ and communicating loudly to one another.
Outside, others detained one man they suspected of being one of the occupants of the flat they were in the middle of raiding.
Onlookers in the street watched as police secured the area and detained other people in the building. People passing in cars slowed to take pictures with their mobile phones.
It was all over in about 30 seconds.
The search begins
Teams then got to work searching through the properties.
Drawers, cabinets, beds and boxes were riffled through, with police hunting for anything that could have been used in the manufacturing, distribution and taking of drugs, as well as items which could have been stolen.
The operation was hailed as a complete success, with officers recovering what they believed to be class A drugs at Arundel Road, along with drug paraphernalia in Norfolk Road and suspected stolen property.
A 53-year-old man from Littlehampton was arrested on suspicion of possession of crack cocaine and after being questioned was bailed to return on February 5.
A 22-year-old man from London was arrested on suspicion of possession of a Class A drug and a 31-year-old woman from Littlehampton was arrested on suspicion of possession with intent to supply a Class A drug and possession of cannabis. Both were bailed until April 25.
‘Nowhere to hide’
Sgt Roy Hodder, of the Arun neighbourhood police team, explained the raid was the result of weeks of meticulous planning and intelligence gathering.
He said: “We’re really keen to listen to the community. They have provided us with this information and we have acted upon it. We have put resources into place and we have had a real impact on those that choose to commit criminality in our area.”
The operation followed in the wake of a rise in burglaries across the town in recent weeks.
Sgt Hodder stressed that for those committing crimes, there would be no place to hide. He explained that more operations were going to take place in a determined effort to crackdown on drug-related crimes and thefts in the town. He added people should always report any drug-related offence.
Those with details about a crime can call police on 101 or independent charity Crimestoppers, on 0800 555111.