Officers in Merseyside and across the North West have been carrying out a range of activities as part of a national focus to tackle county lines, which has led to the arrest of 97 people and the seizure of significant quantities of Class A drugs. In Merseyside 12 people were arrested and £8,000 of Class A drugs were seized.
The clampdown on county drugs lines, which started on Monday (21st January) was coordinated by the North West Regional Organised Crime Unit (ROCU) and saw officers from six forces, along with the regional disruption team, the National Crime Agency, and other partner agencies carry out operations across the North West to disrupt offenders and safeguard vulnerable people.
During the week, enforcement activity involved executing search warrants, gathering intelligence and arresting people already serving prison sentences on new evidence.
Across Merseyside, 12 arrests were made, 2 weapons and Class A drugs to the street value of £8,000 seized, and £3,000 of cash recovered.
County Lines is when criminal gangs from big cities across the UK use violence and intimidation to expand their drug network within their region, and into suburban areas, such as market and coastal towns across the country. They exploit young people and vulnerable adults to move and sell the drugs and 'cuckoo' the homes of vulnerable or drug-addicted people, taking them over and using their property as a drugs base.
The gangs use a single mobile phone line to communicate with drugs users, often making up to £5k per day. There are estimated to be over 2000 active lines in operation across the UK.
Regional activity during the week of action included; visits to vulnerable people, including those at risk of cuckooing, as well as officer engagement with commercial accommodation providers and private hire drivers, who may come into contact with offenders or those being exploited by county lines groups.
Detective Chief Inspector Steve Reardon said: “The issue of County Lines, is one that we as a force work to tackle day in day out and this week of action has re-enforced to those involved in this type of criminality that we will take you off our streets.
“We use a range of tactics to put a stop to this type of crime and alongside enforcement activity, we work with partners such as Everton in the Community, to reach out to young people and educate the most vulnerable in our society on how they can avoid becoming a target to these criminal groups. We are also working to give those vulnerable in society the confidence to break out of this criminal cycle. Many of these young people feel that they have no choice and struggle to find a way to escape from the harm they are enduring on a daily basis.”
Temporary Assistant Chief Constable Chris Green from the North West Regional Organised Crime Unit (ROCU) said: “Whilst this week’s intensification across the region will have undoubtedly disrupted numerous county lines, we will continue to work with forces and our partners to strengthen our regional response to county lines.”
“We’re committed to dismantling these criminal networks and to protecting the young and vulnerable people who are exploited by gangs and are subject to this violence, fear and intimidation.”
You can watch a video about the issue of County Lines here - https://vimeo.com/273864936