DETECTIVES spent months planning Operation Erasure to snare rival drug dealers who may have links to gangs.

The arrogant drug peddlers, who were blatantly dealing on the streets of Southend, sparked the huge police operation.

Furious investigators spent months planning the operation after being outraged residents were having to see Class A drugs dealt right under their noses.

Cops said they had broken down groups they suspected had been peddling together in one of Essex Police’s most successful drugs operations in recent years.

The 33 raids led to 47 arrests in Southend, Westcliff, Laindon, Corringham and London, plus an extra arrest in Rayleigh.

Det Chief Insp Lynn Goodall, who was running the operation, said: “We didn’t like the fact some people were very blatantly dealing drugs in the street, particularly in Southend. We are unhappy with that and we wanted to deal with them straight away. It’s not what we want in our community.”

On Tuesday, 20 raids were carried out, while yesterday saw a further 13. Ms Goodall said police only planned to carry out five raids yesterday, but more information and intelligence was uncovered as the operation gathered pace.

She said: “Those people arrested are from both ends of the scale. Some are young and haven’t been doing it for very long, but some of the older ones in their forties, are well established.

Some have significant convictions and have reoffended.

“There are some people working together and there are distinct groups within the people we have arrested. Those who work in groups tend to be in groups of three to five people. They may be known to each other, but they may not like each other.

“A lot of people come into our area to commit crime. We are open-minded about whether it is gang related, but we certainly haven’t got the problem they have in London.”