Following a major police crackdown on suspected gang members across Waltham Forest,  the council has insisted the borough's high profile programme to tackle the problem is working.

A series of dawn raids took place yesterday as part of Operation Emu, aimed at dismantling the the Leytonstone-based Loyal Soldiers gang, which police believe is responsible for widespread drug dealing.

The Enough is Enough programme, involving police, the council and the probation office, was launched in 2011 following an escalation in street violence.

It aims to encourage gang members to abandon criminality by offering them and their families advice on education, housing and addiction problems.

But an important aspect of the programme was the promise by the police that suspects would be pursued vigorously if they refused to co-operate.

And Alastair Macorkindale, the council's head of community safety, insisted Enough is Enough has seen results, but yesterday's raids were necessary to tackle a criminal "hardcore".

He said the programme had worked with 250 gang members and police figures suggest violence among 10 to 19-year-olds and gun crime have dropped significantly.

Speaking following the raids yesterday, Mr Macorkindale said: "Our scheme is focused on offering support through employment, education, training and helping to rebuild family lives.

"We can only work with what we can target and it is mainly individual-led, whereas today’s action was about enforcement and tackling drug dealing in the borough.

"Today’s action will definitely create instability within the structure of the Loyal Soldiers, it's a business at the end of the day and they can not operate if 20 or so members are in custody.

"This operation would have always taken place because despite our programme, we need strong enforcement and Waltham Forest historically has always been affected by gangs.

"The focus of today was about drug-dealing whereas our gang programme focuses more on the violence attributed to the lifestyle.

"This level of violence is nothing compared to the summer of 2010 but nonetheless, the activity still goes on."

A total of 23 suspected gang members from across the borough remain in custody on suspicion of various offences, including conspiracy to supply class A drugs, possession of a loaded firearm, and money laundering.