Neil Woods insists nothing good came of his 14 years as one of the UK’s most successful undercover cops, fighting the war on drugs. His painstaking, months-long investigations put people guilty of sickening violence in prison for a combined total of more than a 1,000 years, so, surely, there must be something he is proud of? “No. No. I did not good at all, absolutely no good at all,” he says with disdain. “I did nothing of any benefit whatsoever, I only caused harm.”
From 1993 to 2007, he worked to infiltrate gangs, starting at the bottom of the chain and gradually working his way up to catch the violent men controlling it. He was one of the pioneers in the early 1990s of British policing’s use of undercover officers to fight drug trafficking. With no specific training, Woods set out to buy crack in Glossop, Derbyshire while a colleague filmed hidden at a distance. In later jobs, he would disguise himself as “one of the invisibles you pass by on the street every day but never notice” and slowly – very slowly – approach people, befriend them and work his way into the confidences of major drug dealers further up the chain. Once there was the evidence to arrest them, his uniformed colleagues would move in. Woods’ cool composure, quick thinking under pressure and results made drugs squads across the country call on his services.
But he thinks his work disrupted the drugs supply for a grand total of just 18 hours. His “back of a fag packet” calculation is based on one particular job in Northampton in the summer of 2004, where he took on The Burger Bar Boys. They ran a monopoly on heroin and crack in the town, and used gang rape to spread fear – girlfriends and sisters of their enemies, or those who fell behind on drug debts, were potential targets. When the police swooped in, 92 people were arrested. But this also included the addicts and low level dealers Woods had befriended to get close to the gang, including a Big Issue selling heroin addict who gave him £5, thinking he was a fellow junkie in more need than her.
Afterwards, Woods asked for intelligence on the impact of the operation – and it was a big operation – on the drugs supply. “The intel person said ‘yeah, we worked it out, we’ve had some intel that actually there wasn’t any heroin available for two hours and then it was business as normal’… I had taken out 92 people, an entire level of drug dealing in an entire city,” Woods tells me. This was his biggest job and, assuming no other had disrupted supply as much, he added them all together and came up with the 18-hour figure. “That’s the most I’ve done of all those months and months of work, years of work… That’s the reality of it. It really made that little difference.”
Article source: http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2016/08/10/undercover-police-officer-drugs-reform-advocate-neil-woods_n_11618746.html?utm_hp_ref=uk-politics&ir=UK+Politics