A tinny-house sting that swelled to a mammoth drug operation has put 258 people behind bars and unearthed more than a dozen P labs.
Nearly 2000 cannabis plants and more than 12kg of plant material have been seized since Operation Foiled was launched in Counties-Manukau last June.
Police have also found 310g of methamphetamine, hundreds of thousands of dollars of New Zealand and foreign cash and other drugs such as Ecstasy, Contac NT (a P pre-cursor), BZP, LSD and ketamine. Also part of the haul are 22 stolen cars, dozens of computers and large-screen TVs.
Last month, the Herald revealed that police had raided an Otara tinny house allegedly run by a mother of five children under 7. In three hours 16 buyers - including students, office workers and retired people - came from all over Auckland to buy cannabis. A grandmother told police she was buying for her daughter.
That was just a snapshot of Operation Foiled.
"Operation Foiled is the district approach to clamping down on street-level drug dealing," said district commander Superintendent Mike Bush. "Speed and cannabis are available at what are commonly known as a tinny houses and we impact on the drug market by targeting those tinny houses."
Mr Bush said drugs needed to be combated in a number of ways. "In Counties Manukau we have a relentless focus on organised groups and individuals who sell drugs."
Last week, police busted eight drug houses in Mangere, Papatoetoe, Manukau, Mangere Bridge and Mt Wellington and are watching 15 other properties. They have executed 260 search warrants.
At one house police found 90 drying plants, 14 shopping bags of cannabis, several boxes of cannabis, 10 one-ounce bags and $3620.
The operation is the first collaborative, district-wide exercise of its kind, bringing together officers of all ranks and units.
"Everyone's involved," said Detective Inspector Mark Gutry. "Someone with one day in the job that had information on drugs would be provided with support to deal with it properly."
Armed offenders squad members went on raids when a certain degree of risk was identified, he said. "A lot of people are on meth so they are unpredictable."
A number of tinny houses have been found near schools, others with young children living there. Mr Gutry said police worked with agencies such as Child Youth and Family when required.
Officers have also seized a stack of firearms, weapons and ammunition, including a Chinese SKS semiautomatic rifle, a World War II bayonet and a stun gun.
The drug houses ranged from the crude and amateur right through to high-tech business operations, Mr Gutry said.
"It's all levels of dealing. We are right through from low-level street dealing right up to organised crime."
They were often home to gang members, including big players like Black Power and Headhunters as well as lesser-known ones such as F*#kin Mangere Styles (FMH) and Little Homies (LH), he said. While the houses were one-gang operations, there was a lot more collaboration and networking between the groups for the business side of things.
Anyone with information on drug sellers is urged to contact their local police station or call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.
WHAT THEY FOILED
* 258 arrests.
* 1852 cannabis plants.
* 310g methamphetamine.
* 12kg cannabis plant material (from tinnies and deal bags).
* $224,972.20 of cash.
* 22 stolen vehicles.
* Drug paraphernalia.
* Firearms, weapons and ammunition.