Avon and Somerset Police coordinated a week of action in Yeovil last week to tackle county lines drug dealing and the associated exploitation of vulnerable people.
‘County lines’ is a term used to describe gangs and organised criminal networks involved in exporting illegal drugs out of bigger cities into one or more smaller towns in the UK, using dedicated mobile phone lines or other form of ‘deal line’. They are likely to exploit children and vulnerable adults to move and store the drugs and money, and they will often use coercion, intimidation, violence and weapons.
The operation was the result of a coordinated effort between officers and staff from Avon and Somerset Police including Operation Remedy and the Neighbourhood Policing Team, working in partnership with the South West Regional Organised Crime Unit (SW ROCU), to ensure a joined up approach to sharing information and resources to dismantle county lines networks.
Last week’s operation saw officers target 17 vehicles believed to be used in county lines activity, three of which were seized for no insurance. The vehicle checks led to the arrest of two individuals – a 30-year-old male and a 28-year-old female – suspected of having ties with county lines drug dealing. The individuals who were arrested have been released under investigation.
Intelligence gathered throughout the week about a south west county line, which was shared with Dorset Police, also led to two arrests for possession with intent to supply in Dorset.
During the week, Avon and Somerset officers visited 48 addresses which were thought to have either previously been cuckooed or believed to be at risk of being cuckooed in the future.
‘Cuckooing’ is the term used for when drug dealers use violence, exploitation and intimidation to take over the home of a vulnerable person in order to use it as a base for drug dealing.
During the visits officers spoke to 44 adults considered vulnerable and potentially at risk of being exploited by dealers and signposted them to appropriate support.
Address checks allowed officers to execute a firearms warrant at one of the properties linked to a suspected organised crime group. No firearms were located, however the warrant resulted in the disruption of a county line.
The Neighbourhood Policing Teams used the week to engage with local residents in order to share information about county lines drug dealing in the area, to reassure, and to raise awareness of the issues surrounding county lines.
Elaine Costanza, South Somerset Neighbourhoods and Partnerships Inspector says:
“We are aware of the issues caused by county lines drug dealing and we want to reassure local communities that, despite these unprecedented times, tackling county lines remains one of our top priorities. We need to do everything we can to disrupt county lines and stop these ruthless gangs who will stop at nothing to exploit the most vulnerable for their own benefit.
We are extremely pleased with the results of last week’s activity in Yeovil, which highlight the strength a partnership-led approach can have on apprehending drug dealers and ensuring vulnerable people are kept safe”.
Avon and Somerset Police and Crime Commissioner Sue Mountstevens said: “My first policing priority is to protect the most vulnerable from harm and County Lines exploits some of the most vulnerable in our communities. We need to be doing everything we can to disrupt County Lines.
“Drug gangs make promises to vulnerable people about money, status and safety that working for them will provide. We need to continue to ensure that everyone recognises the signs of drug activity and the exploitation of vulnerable people to stop this crime destroying more people’s lives.”