County Lines: Shrewsbury women jailed for drugs conspiracy
Two Shrewsbury women have been jailed for four years each after setting up a 'cuckoo' house on behalf of a County Lines drugs network.
Donna Bound, 46, and Rebecca Brookes, 40, both admitted targeting a vulnerable occupant of a property in Racecourse Crescent, Monkmoor, to deal drugs for a trafficking gang based in Bootle, in Merseyside.
They were arrested after concerns were raised by residents about drug dealing and anti-social behaviour connected to the address and the police launched an investigation.
Officers then established the address had been cuckoo-ed by the women.
Both defendants pleaded guilty to an offence of conspiracy to supply class A drugs between March 24 and May 11, in 2017, at a previous hearing.
Bound, of Racecourse Crescent, and Brookes, of Northwood Road, in Crowmere, were both sentenced to four years in prison at Shrewsbury Crown Court.
The sentencing follows an investigation launched by West Mercia Police in April 2017.
West Mercia Police said their sentences come as the force continues to tackle serious and organised crime, including county lines, as part of operation Protect which is being carried out in partnership with other agencies.
Chief Superintendent Kevin Purcell, head of policing for Shropshire and Telford & Wrekin, said the force alone cannot tackle the issue.
He said: "County lines is a national issue and not just something we are experiencing here, most towns and cities across the country are experiencing issues with county lines.
"We know violence and criminal exploitation is inherent to county lines drug dealing and that it exploits vulnerable people, including children and those with mental health or addiction problems and it is important we all work together to step up our response, working to identify and take effective action.
"Enforcement activity alone, such as carrying out warrants and making arrests, will not sufficiently tackle county lines, we need education and awareness of the signs and every agency to know the part they can play and I'm really grateful for the support we have for our serious and organised crime joint action groups.
"These groups see us work with our colleagues in the local authority, NHS, probation service as well as the fire service and regional organised crime unit to strengthen our activity to target those we suspect are involved or vulnerable to being targeted to make sure they are safeguarded and protected from harm right across Shropshire.
"Our local councillors have recently, quite rightly, raised concerns about this emerging problem and I hope they feel reassured around the work we're doing jointly to take action and would like to thank them for their on-going support.
"Our local communities play a key part, information from them is absolutely crucial and I would encourage anyone who believes a home near them is being cuckoo-ed or someone they know is being exploited by criminal gangs to get in contact with us."
In a separate case, a man from Bilston was sentenced to 30 months at Wolverhampton Crown Court earlier this month for his part in transporting drugs from the West Midlands area in to Shropshire.
He was arrested after a member of the public reported suspicious activity and passed details of the car he was using to police. He was stopped and found in possession of crack cocaine and heroin. Subsequent searches resulted in 18 mobile phones linked to the drugs trade being recovered.
County Lines is the name given to networks which use a dedicated phone line to facilitate the supply of drugs from one town or city to another with the practice often seeing criminals based in larger urban cities use the line to supply drugs into smaller towns.
How to spot a cuckoo den
Earlier this month officers from West Mercia Police took part in a national operation led by the National Crime Agency where officers armed with warrants carried out a number of arrests.
Teams worked with British Transport Police to target individuals travelling by train to transport drugs. They also visited homes at risk of cuckooing.
Cuckooing sees drug dealers befriend someone with a drug or alcohol dependency to use their home for dealing.
Signs of cuckooing include other people inside a house or flat who don't normally live there, people coming and going, more taxis and cars than usual appearing at the property, not seeing the householder who lives there as frequently, the occupant may appear anxious or distracted and there could be drugs paraphernalia near to the property.
Signs that someone is being criminally exploited could include changes in their behaviour or they may regularly go missing from home or school.
They may be making unusual purchases or transactions, socialising with unfamiliar people, having access to money they can't account for, buying expensive goods they may not be able to afford, or have multiple phones, tablets or SIM cards.
To report concerns about County Lines or cuckooing phone the police on 101 or call Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.
Alternatively visit crimestoppers-uk.org