POLICE fear a drugs bust which snared 47 suspects could spark a turf war among dealers moving in to take their place.

Officers have vowed to make the ground “as slippery as possible” for ambitious dealers who have seen Operation Erasure as an opportunity to make their own mark in Southend’s drugs underworld.

Operation Erasure on Tuesday and Wednesday was one of the most successful operations in recent years, unearthing people cops believed were working together in groups across Southend, Westcliff, Laindon, Corringham and London.

Police could not confirm how many people had been charged as a result of the raids, but investigators expect most of the 47 to be charged in relation to possession of class A drugs with intent to supply.

Southend’s neighbourhood policing team has mobilised its proactive Operation Penrith team, to collect intelligence and build a profile of the “new faces” who will try to peddle drugs.

Chief Insp Simon Anslow, Southend’s district commander, said: “With that many alleged drug dealers arrested, it creates an opportunity for organisers to move in new people and the potential opportunity for people to dispute over territory.

“We are keen to make sure we get on top of that, by being visible in known areas and getting as much information as we can about new faces and understand who is where.

“I want to use our Operation Penrith team to make the ground under the drug dealers’ feet as slippery as possible.

“Where we see activity that presents a significant risk to individuals we want to make sure, as early as possible, we have the information to go in, close it down and arrest people.

“Within the organised crime network new managers may have already moved in.

“We need the public to continue to let us know what their concerns are as we build up that picture.”

Keith Kelsey, who is setting up the Residents’ Association Watch for the Kursaal ward, said: “Of course residents will be worried to hear this.

“There are normally repercussions where there are drugs. When one king pin goes another replaces him.

This is the problem, there’re always more people willing to fill that patch, but we are trying to block them.

“I would love to be in the position where anyone who comes to this area has to think twice, by way of signs put up, the way the community will grow and through the police and council’s actions.

“We are not going to take any more rubbish and if people are thinking of coming to damage our lovely town think again.

“I think people would be silly to come back to the hot spot where there’s a lot of eyes watching right now, but the police can’t take their foot off the pedal otherwise the dealers will come back.”