We recently took part in a national, co-ordinated week of action to tackle County Lines drug dealing and the associated exploitation of vulnerable people. Led by the National County Lines Co-ordination Centre (NCLCC) we partnered with local authorities, key service providers and other police forces to ensure a joined-up approach to sharing information and resources to dismantle County Lines networks, which cross police force borders.
Throughout the week, staff from Operation Remedy, Neighbourhood Teams, and intelligence teams worked in partnership with the Metropolitan Police and West Midlands Police to conduct warrants, intercept vehicles, and increase patrols in areas of high footfall known to be used as part of County Lines, such as train stations.
The operation resulted in the dismantling of four active County Lines running between London and Somerset, as well as 16 people being arrested for a number of offences, including possession with intent to supply drugs, being concerned with the supply of drugs and conspiracy to supply drugs. Officers seized weapons, a large quantity of drugs and over £20k in cash, as well as 26 mobile phones.
In partnership with housing providers and support workers, officers visited 62 addresses thought to have previously been cuckooed or at risk of being cuckooed in the future. Officers spoke to 35 adults considered at risk of being exploited by dealers to offer support and signpost them to relevant services.
Officers also used the week as an opportunity to engage with communities and young people about the issue, visiting 11 schools to provide help, information and guidance about gangs, grooming and exploitation. As part of their community engagement work, neighbourhood teams patrolled train stations and bus stations, and visited businesses known to be used by County Lines drug dealers such as taxi ramps, hotels, fast food outlets and shops to talk to staff about County Lines and child exploitation.
Avon and Somerset Police’s child exploitation team also delivered 12 educational sessions to schools, parents, and professionals working in education, social care, and charities with a specific focus on child exploitation.
D/Supt James Raphael, County Lines lead for Avon and Somerset Police, commented: “By definition, County Lines are not constrained to the borders of our region – they involve drug gangs from cities outside our force area bringing illegal substances into our communities, causing them significant harm and exposing our most vulnerable to exploitation, violence and harassment. These results show why it’s so important we work hand-in-hand with other police forces to exchange intelligence about County Lines, allowing us to strengthen our understanding of the issue and continue to make our region hostile to County Lines drug dealers.
“The work undertaken by our neighbourhood policing and engagement teams is vital in helping professionals, schools, parents, and children to be aware of this issue, to understand it and to know how to avoid it if they were to encounter it. We’re committed to keep spreading the word about County Lines and I want to make it absolutely clear that we have no tolerance for individuals bringing illegal substances into our region and exploiting our communities”.
“We have a strong relationship with the Metropolitan Police and West-Midlands Police, which has been key in facilitating the collaborative work that is making Avon and Somerset even more hostile to County Lines and those wishing to exploit vulnerable people and market their drugs here. We are delighted with the results from this week, which have resulted in fewer drug dealers on the streets and fewer County Lines operating in our area.”
PCC Mark Shelford added: “County Lines exploits some of the most vulnerable people in our communities and it is our duty to prevent this awful crime from taking place.
“Collaboration with partners, local authorities and other police forces is key to stopping County Lines from taking place both nationally and regionally, as proven by these results from the week of action. Education is also essential so parents, teachers and other adults working with children can spot the signs and know what help is available if a young adult becomes involved with County Lines drug dealers. Well done to the officers, staff and partners whose work has not only raised the profile of this crime but also took more drug dealers off the streets.”
Notes to editors:
• ‘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. Dealers will often use intimidation, exploitation and violence to take over the home of a vulnerable person in order to use it as a base for drug dealing. This is something referred to as ‘cuckooing’.
• Operation Remedy was introduced by Avon and Somerset Police in April 2019. The operation is designed to improve both police performance and public confidence relating to burglary, drug and knife crime – and is now a permanent part of the force’s strategic operations.
• A round-up of the national results of the week of action is available here: Over 1,000 people arrested and almost 300 weapons seized as part of county lines crackdown (npcc.police.uk)