GALLERY: Milton Keynes car washes targeted in police raids investigating drugs, trafficking and modern slavery

An immigration enforcement van at the car wash in Peartree Bridge. Picture by James Averill
An immigration enforcement van at the car wash in Peartree Bridge. Picture by James Averill
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Fifteen people have now been arrested in what was Thames Valley Police's biggest ever raid investigating drugs, trafficking and modern slavery.

An investigation has found that an organised crime group has been operating within Milton Keynes and is responsible for large quantities of class A drugs being brought in from London and then being dealt on the streets of Milton Keynes.

A man is arrested at the car wash in Whaddon Way, Bletchley. Picture by James Averill

A man is arrested at the car wash in Whaddon Way, Bletchley. Picture by James Averill

The group was using hand car washes as a front for their criminal activity and police believe individuals may be being trafficked into Milton Keynes, and might be the subject of modern slavery.

Warrants have been carried out at four hand car washes in Milton Keynes, and one in Bedford. The Citizen was present observing the raids as they were executed.

More than 40 police vans and 180 police officers convened at a local primary school this morning for a brief into 'Operation Retreat'. The first raids were struck at roughly 9.40am, with car washes in Whaddon Way, Bletchley, and in Peartree Bridge targeted.

In total 15 people have been arrested and the force has safeguarded 36 people.

Police gather at a local primary school for their debrief before the raids. Picture by James Averill

Police gather at a local primary school for their debrief before the raids. Picture by James Averill

30 of those are believed to be victims of modern slavery, and they are being supported by partner agencies and charities.

Officers carried out a number of warrants at 20 residential addresses, and seized a large quantity of cocaine, cannabis and also thousands of pounds worth of cash, and a Mercedes ML 250.

One of the residential addresses that was targeted, in Shackleton Place, Oldbrook, was home to bags of drugs and a pile of passports. Another address that was raided in the city was said by one of the officers attending to be 'surrounded by cash'.

13 people have been arrested on suspicion of offences such as modern slavery and people trafficking, conspiracy to supply class A drugs, and also immigration offences.

One of the main targets of the raid was arrested at the Peartree Bridge Hand Car Wash this morning. Picture by James Averill

One of the main targets of the raid was arrested at the Peartree Bridge Hand Car Wash this morning. Picture by James Averill

During the operation police have also worked with the Belgium Federal Police through the National Crime Agency, in order to safeguard a further six victims of modern slavery - including a 16-year-old and 17 year-old boy.

A further two individuals were arrested on human trafficking offences.

Detective Chief Inspector, Nicole Murphy of Milton Keynes Local Policing Area, said: “Today we have carried out a number of warrants to disrupt an organised crime group that has been operating in Milton Keynes.

“We have made a number of arrests and have safeguarded a number of individuals who we believe may have been subjected to modern slavery offences, and tackle a people smuggling network.

The Whaddon Way raid was executed at about 9.40am today. Picture by James Averill

The Whaddon Way raid was executed at about 9.40am today. Picture by James Averill

“To offer support to vulnerable individuals who may have been trafficked, or those who need help with drugs addiction, we have been working with Milton Keynes Council, HM Immigration, The Samaritans, The Salvation Army, The Red Cross, the Gang Master Licensing Authority and HMRC.

“Additionally we have disrupted this organised crime group, to stop them from bringing drugs into Milton Keynes, and protect our community from the damaging health and social effects of drug abuse.

“This organised crime group has used hand car washes in Milton Keynes, in order to act as a front to mask their criminal activity.

“By continued working with the community and our partners we hope to stop these groups from establishing roots within our communities in this way.

“In order to tackle serious and organised crime we need the public’s help and support. We would ask anyone who thinks someone is being exploited to please report it.

“If you have information which could assist us in tackling serious and organised crime please call 101 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.”

Police left the primary school where they were briefed to execute 20 warrants across the city

Police left the primary school where they were briefed to execute 20 warrants across the city

Detective Chief Inspector Darran Hill, of Thames Valley Police’s Serious and Organised Crime Unit, said: “Today’s operation has been hugely successful and in total we have safeguarded 36 people who we believe are the victims of modern slavery and human trafficking, made a number of arrests and also seized cash and drugs.

“This is the largest operation of its type carried out within the Thames Valley, and we have worked with a number of partners who have been key in the success of this operation in order to safeguard vulnerable individuals.

“As well as working with partner agencies and charities, we have also worked closely with the National Crime Agency, and the Belgium Federal Police.

“This is a perfect example of our campaign Stronghold which aims to work in partnership in order to tackle serious and organised crime.”

“We are dedicated to tackling these crime groups who seek to exploit vulnerable people for their own material gain.

“We would urge communities to assist us in spotting the signs of modern slavery, so if you are going to a hand car wash, we would ask members of the public to be vigilant. Are working conditions what they should be, does the car wash have a phone number?

“By reporting simple things like this you could be assisting us in stopping serious and organised crime.”