Last week police, North Somerset Council and other agencies worked together in a day of action targeting county lines drug dealing in Weston-super-Mare.
Dozens of unformed and plain-clothed officers were out on the streets on Wednesday 26 May to gather intelligence which will be used to help prevent and disrupt criminal activity.
They engaged with members of the public and explained to them how to keep safe, while Crimestoppers gave out advice to people on how to report crimes in their neighbourhood.
County lines is a term used to describe gangs and organised criminal networks involved in exporting illegal drugs from bigger cities into one or more smaller towns in the UK, using dedicated mobile phone lines. These drug gangs will target young children, grooming them into a life of selling class A drugs, often taking them away from their families and subjecting them to continuous threats and violence.
During the day of action, a 20-year-old male was arrested by Operation Remedy officers on suspicion of possession of a class A drug with intent to supply. He has been released under investigation. Cannabis was also recovered from a second man, in his 20s, during a stop search later in the day.
British Transport Police officers located a juvenile who was connected with county lines dealing and believed to be a victim of criminal exploitation. Safeguarding measures are being put in place to protect him going forward.
North Somerset Council’s licensing team also spoke with a number of taxi drivers about county lines and encouraged them to look out for the key signs, including a child travelling an unusually long distance alone by taxi and paying for the journeys in cash. Two drivers had no knowledge of county lines drug dealing and have been referred onto a council safeguarding course.
The day of action took in areas across Weston and Worle, including the train station and South Ward. The MAVIS bus where people can go for advice and support was also parked up in the town centre.
Acting Sergeant Peter Rooke, who is part of North Somerset’s Violence Reduction Unit that organised the initiative, said: “Working together with key partners in this way helps to raise awareness and tackle issues around crime.
“We’re grateful to everyone who stopped and engaged with us last week and hope efforts like this encourage people to contact the relevant agency to report issues in the community. The information we received will be passed on and can help us both target offenders and crime prevention.
“A teenager who found themselves being dragged into a life of crime has been made safe from a significant exploitation risk, while a suspected drug dealer was also arrested, so we believe this day of action was a success.
“High-visibility police patrols across Weston will continue to take place throughout what is expected to be a busy summer.”
PCC Mark Shelford added: “Collaboration on a national, regional and particularly a local level is key to prevent and put a stop to county lines and I am pleased to see the partnership work that took place in Weston-super-Mare to disrupt criminal activity.
“This crime exploits some of the most vulnerable people in our communities – including young adults – and police, partners and local authorities must continue to work together to tackle this awful crime. I am pleased there was also a focus on raising awareness of county lines to local people as this is essential; the wider community needs to be aware of the signs and how and when to report to the police.”
Clair Sandilands, North Somerset Council’s Violence Reduction Unit Co-ordinator, said: “The Violence Reduction Unit will be organising similar days of action in Clevedon, Nailsea and Portishead later in the year, recognising that these issues are not just isolated to the Weston area.”
And Cllr Mike Solomon, North Somerset Council’s executive member for neighbourhoods and community services, added: “This is just the sort of joined-up working our communities want to see, tackling these important issues and by doing it in such a high-profile way also helps to raise awareness.”
For more information on reporting county lines or criminal exploitation, visit the dedicated page on our website.