POLICE have praised the courage of residents in Torquay who have helped to put a profiteering criminal behind bars.
David Hodgson, 30, stashed away more than £23,000 which police say was made from the 'profits of drugs supply' in the Ellacombe area.
He was caught after police executed a series of warrants and probed his bank accounts.
Hodgson was found guilty of 13 counts of possessing criminal property after a trial at Exeter Crown Court and sentenced to three years in prison.
Crucial to his prosecution was evidence given by local people and businesses who decided to stand together and testify against him.
Many gave evidence behind a screen.
Their actions have been praised by Cllr Julian Parrot, Torbay councillor for the Ellacombe.
Hodgson's conviction follows a lengthy investigation by the South Devon Targeted Policing Team .
After the case PC Chris Jolley, who was part of the team, said: "Between 2009 and 2011 numerous drug warrants and searches of Hodgson had been conducted by officers in Torquay which resulted in seizures of small amounts of heroin and amphetamine."
Between May, 2010, and February 23, 2011, more than £11,000 was seized from Hodgson by police including £6,000 from a car he was travelling in in the West Midlands.
PC Jolley said: "TPT officers built the case around Hodgson's financial movements and profits of drug supply and financial inquiries of his bank accounts identified a further £12,701."
At the trial evidence was heard from local business owners and residents of Market Street.
Hodgson, who was living at his girlfriend's address at the time but has since moved to another part of Torquay, denied the charges. He has never been convicted of drug supply offences.
Evidence at the trial concerned where Hodgson got his money from. He said he got loans from family and by saving up benefit, but the police case was that money was obtained through the sale of drugs.
Neighbours provided circumstantial evidence which connected Hodgson to drug supply, including people queuing outside his flat, passing packages through the letterbox and carrying substances resembling crushed demerera sugar.
PC Jolley said: "Officers would particularly like to thank the witnesses from the community who showed great courage in giving evidence and ultimately led to making Torquay and in particular Market Street a safer area again and would like to emphasise that police will use powers under the Proceeds of Crime Act to target those involved in drug supply and acquisitive crime."
One local woman who provided a statement to police said it was a relief Hodgson had been put away.
Another business said the area suffered from deprivation and was not always a pleasant place to trade.
"But it is good to see community spirit being shown," she said.
Cllr Parrot said it was time to take actions against drug users.
He said: "Problems with drugs are reported to me all the time and I'm not surprised people are coming forward and helping the police.
"The reality is there are a lot of children and mothers living in the area and this problem should be tackled. Something I'd love to see is zero tolerance to drugs."
He called on the newly-elected police commissioner to make the fight against drugs a number one priority.
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