BUSTED: Met Police officers were assisted by riot cops from City of London Police on Puglia
VULNERABLE "missing" teenagers groomed into drug dealing by violent gangs have been passed to social services after being arrested during one of the country's biggest ever drug busts.
Police this week waged war on a sophisticated network of drug dealers linked to 860 offences including gun and knife crime as more details about the spike in violent crime across the country was laid bare.
Home Office data showed robberies up last year by 30 per cent on the previous 12 months, sex offences by 24 per cent, knife crime by 16 per cent and murders by 12 per cent, while only nine per cent of crimes committed saw a suspect in court.
Police officer numbers being down to levels in the 1980s due to austerity is one of the causes of a "wild west" Britain that has seen close to 90 murders in London this year, according to the Police Federation.
Met Police chiefs will hope a crackdown on violent drug gangs, which coincided with the release of the statistics, will prove they have not lost control of the streets.
On Thursday, they carried out a series of dawn raids at 11 addresses in central and west London leading to the arrest of eight men.
PROUD: In his penultimate week Detective Superintendent D'Orsi helped take knives off the streets
These raids were part of a wider operation involving 2,775 officers being carried out all week that saw 70 search warrants executed and 67 people arrested.
The raids were targeting gangs thought to be behind the supply of drugs across London, and outside the capital, using so called "county lines" dedicated mobile phone numbers operated by vulnerable people often coerced into dealing.
A Met spokesman said: "Operation Puglia is a proactive and intelligence led police operation across Hammersmith and Fulham, Kensington & Chelsea and Westminster, targeting “men of violence” and their associates who are known to be habitual knife carriers and who are involved in exploitation of vulnerable people."
Forty six people were charged with a total of 210 drug supply and related offences.
FIGHTBACK: Police have been accused of losing control of the streets as 'wild west' Britain continues
Those arrested included 18 teenagers, including a 15-year-old.
The youngsters had all previously been reported to police as missing or of concern a combined total of more than 470 times in the last year.
Although 17 of them were charged, all the teenagers were taken to a Met specialist safeguarding custody facility, where representatives from social services, local councils and charities will look after them in a bid to divert them from gangs.
Detective Superintendent Raffaele D’Orsi, said: “This is one of the largest investigations and numbers of arrests that the MPS has ever undertaken.
“The message to those predisposed to carry weapons, or be involved in violent crime or drug dealing is simple: the Met and our partners are here to help you out of this way of life, but if you choose not to take this help, we know where you live and we will come and arrest you to protect our communities from you.”
SEIZED: Bullets, drugs and a bullet-proof vest found during raids in Islington
In a further raid on two properties in Islington, police seized 90 rounds of ammunition, a bullet proof vest and £3,000 worth of class A drugs.
No one was arrested.
Counterparts in Somerset carried on the war against the county lines dealers who have spread from cities to almost every corner of the UK, with operations in Yeovil the same day.
CUTE: Sniffer dogs like this one used on London raids are finding criminal's stashes
Twelve people were arrested, with 11 later charged, after class A drugs, cannabis, cash and knives were recovered from a number of addresses.
Despite the crackdowns, the bloodshed continued this week.
Lilia Djairine, 24, was knifed to death on Thursday in her flat above a pizza shop in Hanwell, west London.
The same day, a woman in her 50s was stabbed in the stomach in an apparent motiveless attack as she walked her dog in woods in Abingdon, Oxfordshire.
And, on Thursday evening, carjackers in Birmingham took a grey Audi A3 S Line vehicle with a newborn baby inside it.
Terrified mum Clare O'Neill, 39, clung onto the car and was dragged along screaming "my baby, my baby" as they fled in it.
She was reunited with her child after the thugs dumped the baby in her car seat outside a health centre.