Police focus activity on County Lines drug networks during week of intensification
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Leicestershire Police has carried out 38 warrants, arrested 63 people and made safeguarding visits to 54 vulnerable people during a national week of action targeting county lines drug dealing.
They also recovered cash, drugs, firearms and other weapons as part of County Lines Intensification Week from Monday 7 March to Sunday 13 March 2022.
County Lines’ activity involves people from large urban areas travelling to smaller county towns to sell drugs, 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. They can also be forced to let drug dealers use their homes as a base for selling drugs in a form of exploitation known as ‘cuckooing’.
County Lines Intensification Week highlights include;
63 people arrested and the complete dismantling of three lines from Nottingham and Birmingham
38 search warrants executed
Force-wide and local Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) operations across the week throughout Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland leading to 16 arrests and 10 vehicles recovered
Knife arch and passive drugs dog deployed to train stations in Leicester, Hinckley and Melton Mowbray in partnership with British Transport Police.
Seizure of more than £30,000 in cash
Seizure of two viable hand guns
Seizure of a variety of other weapons including machetes, knives, baseball bats, knuckle dusters and weighted chains.
Seizure of a large quantity of controlled drugs including heroin, cocaine, crack cocaine, cannabis, cannabis edibles and synthetic cannabinoids.
54 vulnerable children and adults identified and safeguarded
Extensive engagement with children, parents and professionals highlighting the danger of involvement in County Lines activity.
‘Are You Listening?’ presentations given to 6026 children and young people and 367 professionals/parents and carers.
Chief Superintendent Jonny Starbuck said; “Thanks to this national week of action, we have arrested some significant individuals, closed down three lines and taken a large quantity of drugs off our streets.
“As well as enforcement activity, a major focus for us is protecting vulnerable people who are drawn into the world of drug dealing. Whether that’s young people who are forced to sell drugs on behalf of gangs, or those who are forced to let drug dealers use their homes as a base for selling drugs in a form of exploitation known as ‘cuckooing.’ They often don’t realise they are being criminally exploited but with the right support from us, and our partners, they can get the help they need and my thanks go to all the agencies who supported us this week and for their ongoing efforts throughout the year.”
“This week has also given us a lot of intelligence and information about the people involved in county lines, and where they are operating, so they should expect a knock on the door in the near future.”
Training workshops and inputs into schools
The force’s Children and Young Persons Officer, Katie Hudson, and Substance Misuse Officer, James Edmondston, ran 17 county lines workshops throughout the week – nine on Microsoft Teams and eight in person.
They spoke to 6026 pupils and 367 adult professionals/parents/carers who work with young people. The workshops based on the force’s film ‘Are you Listening?’ are designed to help adults spot the signs of criminal exploitation in young people and warn teenagers of the dangers of getting involved in county lines.
Throughout March, Alter Ego Creative Solutions is delivering a theatre production on county lines. They will present 40 sessions into 26 educational establishments reaching approximately 6948 secondary school students.
Cathy Robinson, Vice Principal at Rawlins Academy in Quorn said: “We are excited to be working in partnership with Leicestershire Police and AlterEgo Creative Solutions to tackle this national issue at a local level in a creative way. Almost 500 pupils in our setting have benefitted from this production, and they are now more aware of the risks surrounding county lines.
“This event has excellently supplemented our existing PSHE curriculum. It is important not to shy away from safeguarding issues such as county lines, and to tackle them head on to ensure that our young people are safeguarded. The police and AlterEgo have been pivotal in raising the profile of this work, enabling the delivery of this important message in a way that is more relatable and memorable.”
Rupert Matthews, Leicestershire’s Police and Crime Commissioner, said: “This is an insidious type of crime that preys on vulnerable people.
“These results are truly impressive; there is no doubt that these special weeks are effective. But it is beyond depressing that it remains necessary. That people are working hard to disrupt these ‘lines’ is not in doubt, but we need sustainable prevention solutions too. We must find a way to stop this exploitation before many more vulnerable young people become part of the criminal justice system and a victim at the same time.
“I hope people will learn to recognise the signs and report their suspicions. If something seems odd then it probably is.”