at the heart of the fight against growing trafficking – L’Express

at the heart of the fight against growing trafficking –

In the still dark streets of the Bellefontaine district, on the outskirts of Toulouse, a faint light emerges from the window of a pavilion. “Someone is already up. We hope it’s him,” breathes Fabien Grethen, deputy territorial director of the judicial police (PJ) of Toulouse. The person the commissioner is referring to is considered one of the most important members of a local drug trafficking network, which specialist investigators have been working on for more than six months. “We found out about the owners of the deal points, the nannies, the managers, we want to hit the hierarchy of the network,” he explains, scrutinizing the dozen agents from the research and investigation brigade. intervention (BRI) which advances in silence in front of the purple gate of the family home.

Simultaneously, more than 150 police officers, colleagues from the BRI, the Raid or the anti-crime brigade were stationed in front of the doors of other housing in the surrounding neighborhoods, which make up the whole of Mirail, known for the presence of a heavy drug trafficking. On this cold Tuesday in April, fourteen people, considered “highly placed” in the hierarchy of the network, must be arrested as part of the “XXL net square” operation which has just started in Toulouse. Each of these interventions must be launched at the same time, to avoid any risk of leaks. It was a little after six o’clock when the group leader launched the attack and broke the silence of the housing estate.

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“Police!”, one of the officers shouts as the front door gives way. Better to prevent: in the turf war that has taken place between different networks in Toulouse, heavy reprisals and attempted murder are not rare. “Every year, we count three or four deaths in the context of trafficking, and around fifteen injured by bullets,” regrets Toulouse prosecutor Samuel Vuelta Simon to L’Express. For the BRI teams, the main danger lies in the temptation, for dealers fearing an attack from an opposing group, to respond to the assault with gunfire. “It’s already happened,” comments Fabien Grethen, who attends this type of operation “two to three times a year.” This morning, no detonation was reported. The silence that comes from the pavilion after the police enter is almost surprising. After a few minutes, a woman’s voice comes from the entrance. “You have no right to come in like that!” she shouts as the agents take possession of the premises. A young man, who tried to escape through the garden when the police arrived, was stopped dead in his tracks. This is the brother of the main target.

But after a careful search of the house, a few grams of drugs and cash were found, the police had to face the facts: the main person concerned was not present. “You have to look everywhere: it has already happened that you find someone at the bottom of a cupboard, under a bed…”, testifies Fabien Gethen. Almost amused, the man remembers a mother feigning discomfort on the living room sofa during a previous search. Several kilos of drugs had been hidden there. But this Tuesday, neither the entry of the dog brigade and a dog specialized in searching for drugs and tickets, nor the presence of the BRI will allow such a discovery to be made. Here, the police came up empty. “In this type of operation, it is rare to arrest everyone at the same time. At the last minute, the suspect was able to go to sleep elsewhere, to be absent… But we have enough evidence to arrest him later , tighten the pressure around him”, puts Fabien Grethen into perspective.

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Especially since only a few blocks away, certain operations are a success: at the bottom of the towers of the Reynerie district, a man is seen handcuffed, surrounded by several investigators. In one hour, around ten people were arrested, out of the fourteen “objectives” of the morning. “These arrests aim to dismantle trafficking little by little. The suspects will be placed in police custody for a maximum of 96 hours, then presented to an investigating judge,” specifies Patrick Léonard, head of the Territorial Directorate of the PJ of Toulouse.

“15,000 to 20,000 euros per day”

For his part, prosecutor Samuel Vuelta Simon recalls that this “XXL square net” operation will continue for several weeks in Toulouse, mobilizing 250 police officers to carry out new arrests following legal investigations, public highway operations, or even controls by the departmental anti-fraud operational committee (CODAF) in order to combat clandestine work, illegal immigration or the possession or sale of illegal products. On April 2, one of these operations, carried out at Place Abbal, in the Mirail district, made it possible to seize 85 kilos of foodstuffs, cartons of contraband cigarettes, narcotics, fireworks, as well as request eight administrative closures, four lump sum adjustments from URSAFF, and to open a procedure for suspicion of hidden work in different establishments.

“The targeted district is in particular that of Mirail, where drug trafficking has long been organized, guilt-free and extremely profitable,” indicates the prosecutor, while certain police sources cite a turnover ranging from “15,000 to 20,000 euros per day” for dealers. As in other French cities, Samuel Vuelta Simon notes in Toulouse “an explosion” of drug trafficking in recent years, involving “unusual” profiles, such as “fathers of families or young people in the social sector” who agree to “sell and delivering narcotics as a supplement to salary”, an uberization of Internet traffic, organized money laundering and an increase in violence around the network. “As in Marseille, we are starting to see turf wars or people shot at deal points. However XXL it may be, these operations will not completely eradicate trafficking, but they are an additional tool to mobilize more of staff over a longer period, in order to destabilize it,” he believes.

“Traffic now takes place a lot on the Internet, the deal points have lost a little of their splendor… But this type of operation nevertheless makes it possible to avoid resurgences or attempts to take over deal points”, adds Fabien Grethen . On March 30, Gérald Darmanin specified that the anti-drug operations already carried out in Marseille, in the Paris region or in the North had allowed “1738 arrests”, and the seizure of “150 kilos of drugs and 2.4 million euros” , for around 20,000 gendarmes and police officers mobilized.