Forty arrested during county lines intensification week
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Leicestershire Police has arrested 40 people as part of enforcement activity to target and disrupt ‘county lines’ drug dealers.
Run from Monday 14 September to Sunday 20 September, the operation formed part of a national week of action led by the National Crime Agency (NCA) which saw police forces up and down the country taking part.
County lines gangs export drugs into other areas of the country, often small towns, using dedicated mobile phone lines. They also exploit children and vulnerable adults to move and store drugs and money, sometimes using coercion, intimidation and violence.
During the week, officers executed 31 search warrants across Leicester, Leicestershire & Rutland as well as carrying out numerous stop searches at train stations and in hotspot areas across the neighbourhoods. The force also ran three ANPR (automatic number plate recognition) operations looking to target vehicles suspected to be involved with county lines activity.
The searches saw more than £38,000 worth of cash being recovered, as well as class A and B drugs including a large number of cannabis plants. Officers also seized two stolen vehicles, a number of knives, a stun gun and three imitation hand guns.
Of the 40 arrested – three have been charged with drug offences, three have been remanded after being wanted on warrants issued by the courts, 15 were released under investigation, three were issued with community resolutions, one was given a conditional caution, seven were released on police bail and the remaining were released with no further action and safeguarding measures put in place where required.
The three charged are:
Paulin Cekrezi, 33 of Prestbury Road, Loughborough, charged with production of a class B drug
Elliott Mitcham, 19 of Deepdale, Leicester, charged with possession of a class B drug
Farid Abasi, 24 of Newtown Street, Leicester, charged with possession of a class A drug and possession of class B drug
Detective Chief Inspector Mark Sinski from the Force Intelligence Bureau said: “Our enforcement activity has been extremely successful, leading to a significant number of arrests. Not only has the force prevented further criminal exploitation associated with county lines, but it’s also identified 20 vulnerable individuals whose safety and well-being was severely at risk, these people have now been safeguarded and are being supported by both police and partners.
“Safeguarding and protecting our communities is paramount which is why our work to protect and prevent this type of crime is just as important as the enforcement activity. Last week we visited a number of cuckooed addresses, engaged with those living there, giving them the support they need and referring them on to partner agencies where necessary.
“Neighbourhood officers were also carrying out proactive patrols in their areas, visiting residents and posting county lines leaflets and posters to raise awareness around the signs of county lines as well as encouraging those to report criminal activity to us.”
Alongside the enforcement activity, Children & Young Persons Officer Katie Hudson and James Edmondston, Substance Misuse Officer, teamed up with neighbourhood officers to engage with members of the community at train stations across Leicester, Leicestershire & Rutland, speaking with people about county lines and what signs they can look out for in their communities.
Katie Hudson and James Edmondston also ran county lines workshops throughout the week on Microsoft Teams, speaking with both teachers and students. The sessions were attended virtually by ten local schools and saw around 1,800 students taking part.
Katie Hudson said: “County lines gangs are recruiting young people, through promises of quick cash and a glamorous lifestyle, then sending them out to small towns and rural areas to peddle their drugs. Once involved, young people can often feel trapped into a cycle of criminality they are unable to escape from.
“It’s essential children understand the dangers of getting involved with gangs and also know from a young age how to spot the signs of county lines and who they can go to for support.”
Chief Constable Simon Cole said: “This is the fourth time we have carried out enforcement activity as part of a national week of action and again we have arrested a number of people for county lines criminality. Our work to tackle this issue is very much part of daily business and we will continue in our efforts to raise awareness of the issue and what our communities can do to help.
“Everyone has a part to play in tacking these issues, I encourage people to make sure they are aware of the signs and report any criminal activity of this nature by reporting online or calling 101.”