IT was a business much like any other. A group of young men seized on a money-making opportunity, marketed their goods and quickly built up a network of all-too-willing customers. By carving up Southampton into districts each man was in charge of a patch, with a team of workers recruited to feed the demand for their product.

The clinical way in which a gang of young men from London established themselves as one of the main drug suppliers in the city was laid bare at Southampton Crown Court where key members of the gang were jailed for their part in the conspiracy.

For ten months they relentlessly peddled heroin and crack cocaine on the city’s streets, bringing down a team of runners, often young teenagers who had been recruited under the promise of cash rewards or in some cases too frightened to say no.

The ringleaders were known to the Metropolitan Police as having connections to a notorious gang known as Grit Set with a history of firearms and other offences.

The Met’s gang unit passed on information that some of the main players had picked Hampshire as their next hunting ground and had been seen making so-called “country runs” to the south coast.

In response Hampshire’s Major Investigation Team launched Operation Independence, not onlyto gather evidence to prosecute, but also disrupt the dealing.

At every opportunity teams of officers raided suspected drug dens across the city where the ringleaders had taken over properties, usually where drug users were living, to stay for days at a time while they sold their merchandise.

On one occasion hundreds of pounds in cash and drugs estimated to be worth at least £114,000 on the streets were recovered during a raid in Weston.

Southampton Crown Court was told how phone evidence was also gathered that could pinpoint the location of the main players through their mobile phones, as they moved around the city and the capital, organising their workforce and arranging deals.

The analysis was also cross-referenced with the location of the mobile phone numbers, known as the “drug phones” that were being used to make contact with street dealers and users.

CCTV was also gathered which showed members of the gang topping up the drugs mobile phones with credit at shops close to where they were holed up in the city.

It culminated in a morning of simultaneous raids involving more than 100 officers across London and in Southampton and resulted in the arrest of Santino White, 19, from Ealing; Bradley Roberts, 19, from, Wembley; Jahlani McCalmon, 22, from Hayes; Jarvis Ansah, 21, from Fulham; Samunde Enoch-Gill, 18, also from London; Damien Davies, 30, of Fullerton Close, Southampton; and a 16-year-old from London who cannot be named for legal reasons.

All pleaded guilty to conspiracy to supply class A drugs except Enoch-Gill, who admitted being concerned in the supply of class A drugs.

The gang were jailed for a total of 14 years by Judge Gary Burrell QC, who said: “The supply of these drugs ultimately brings misery to the end user. there can be no other outcome other than abject misery for those who take these drugs over a period of time.”