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Operation Viper Nets 73 Arrests

Operation Viper Nets 73 Arrests

New Zealand Police National News Release

24 September 2008

Seventy three people have been arrested in the Wellington Police District during the last eight days and significant quantities of drugs seized during a major operation to disrupt criminal activities.

Detective Senior Sergeant Darrin Thomson, officer in charge of the Wellington Police District Metro Crime Unit, said the arrests in Operation Viper follow a three-month intelligence phase. More than half of those arrested have been charged with serious drug dealing offences involving cannabis, ecstasy, LSD and methamphetamine.

Police have executed search warrants in Wellington, Porirua, the Hutt Valley and the Wairarapa during the last week. Further arrests are expected.

Drugs estimated at more than $500,000 have been seized along with two shotguns, a .22 firearm with silencer and a stun gun.

Amongst the cannabis seizures were ten bushy plants more than two metres tall and one metre wide found growing in pots inside an Upper Hutt address. "This was a sophisticated hydroponics set up with very good quality plants," Detective Senior Sergeant Thomson said. "We also found 650 tabs of LSD, a Class A controlled drug, at the same place."

Police say residential and commercial premises have been used for cannabis growing and other drug dealing activities.

"A major concern for us has been the number of very young children present while searching these premises," he says. "Kids aged from three to 14 years have been found in environments we believe were detrimental to their wellbeing.

"While none of the addresses were used for meth manufacturing, meth was being used. This and the proximity to cannabis and other drugs is not healthy environment or good message for vulnerable children."

He said police have worked with other government agencies to help ensure the ongoing safety of children.

"We've also been concerned at the number of properties searched where people have been redirecting power supplies and effectively stealing it from energy companies to avoid payment and suspicion.

"It's not a new phenomenon but it does create an extra safety hazard for police to be aware of when we're searching properties."

He said Operation Viper has been the most successful operation of its type in the district during the last four years.

"It never ceases to surprise us the extent of the New Zealand drug culture. Fifteen of the arrests were associated with gangs but drug offending goes across all levels of society."


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