CHILDREN as young as eight have helped put dozens of drug dealers behind bars for a total of 103 years.
The youngsters told their parents what they had seen in their crimeridden neighbourhoods - sparking a police operation which netted deadly weapons and thousands of pounds worth of hard drugs.
Officers staked out Toxteth for more than a year before more than 200 officers swooped in 28 dawn raids last summer.
Yesterday at Liverpool crown court, Grantley Deckon became the 38th person sentenced through Operation Camelia. He was jailed for five years for supply of cocaine and heroin and possessing a sawn-off shotgun.
Superintendent Alan Cooper said: "We were told by parents their kids, who were eight, nine and 10, were walking past people carrying out open drug supply.
"There was also a significant problem of firearm incidents linked to the supply of drugs.
" People decided enough was enough."
Camelia was launched at the turn of the Millennium, when a man was shot in the back in Toxteth, and went on for 18 months. Sgt Steve Rimmer led the operation.
He said: "The vast majority of the drugs sold were in public places and in alleyways behind people's houses."
He said an undercover team joined the dealers, sometimes watching and filming them. The officers spent over
£4,000 on drugs to gather evidence.
Sgt Rimmer said: "There was some brilliant undercover work. It was risky for the officers involved.
"At times they would be searched for recording equipment."
Last July, two sets of dawn raids were carried out, mainly in Toxteth.
Among the main players were Odelio Lacruz, 38, of Princes Road, Toxteth, who got four and a half years last August for 23 counts of supplying crack cocaine and heroin.
Linton Wilkie, 22, of Garmoyle Road, Wavertree, was jailed for four years a month later for eight counts of supplying the same drugs. Karl Caulfield, 22, of Upper Warwick Street, got five years in November for 17 counts, and in January 37-year-old Stephen Parry, of Talland Close, Halewod, got four years over nine drug dealing charges.
One man, 21-year-old Stephen French, has admitted multiple counts of being concerned in supply of crack and heroin but is on the run.
They are part of a criminal network who have between them received 103 years in prison. In some of their homes were machetes, guns and swords.
Sgt Rimmer said: "Some drug dealers fled the area after the operation. There has been a dramatic decline in drug-related firearm incidents."
Supt Cooper added: "I would particularly thank undercover officers because the people they were dealing with were used to dealing with guns.
"Grantley Deckon, for example, had a loaded sawn-off shotgun under his armchair when his house had been raided. Just a couple of weeks before he had been shot in the eye."