West Mercia Police arrested 32 people across Shropshire, Telford & Wrekin, Herefordshire and Worcestershire during the operation, which was run by the National Crime Agency (NCA).
‘County lines’ activity involves a group from a large urban area travelling to smaller locations to sell drugs. They may challenge an existing group from the local area or another County Lines group in order to take over the local market which often causes an increase in violent incidents.
County lines groups travel between urban and county locations on a regular basis to collect drugs and deliver cash. They will use local properties as a base for their activities; this is often acquired by force or coercion referred to as ‘cuckooing’.
Across the West Mercia policing area weapons and phones, as well as more than £13,500 in cash was recovered during the week of intelligence led intensified activity.
Thousands of pounds worth of drugs were seized during the week, including crack, cocaine, heroin and cannabis.
Weapons ranging from knives and machetes to replica shotguns were seized and numerous tablets and mobile phones confiscated. Securing these communications is vital in disrupting the county lines movement and provides officers with key intelligence.
Assistant Chief Constable Geoff Wessell said: “Last week’s targeted activity on county lines gangs demonstrates how our officers are working tirelessly to disrupt and dismantle drugs supply and protect the young and vulnerable people who are exploited by them in our communities.
“With over 30 arrests made, various warrants served and cars stopped we have significantly disrupted county lines activity across West Mercia. Importantly, we have safeguarded a number of vulnerable people.
“The great work done by all officers and staff involved is one of an on-going nature and it is important to remember that operations such as these during this national week of intensification are very much ‘business as usual’ for all our teams. The intelligence and preparation that has gone into making arrests and disrupting these lines of drug trafficking have been, in some cases, weeks and months in the making.
“Education is also key, and our officers have conducted many visits to schools, social care providers, health professionals and other important community groups. By providing information on what to look for we can help the community to spot the signs of cuckooing – where gangs target the most vulnerable individuals and use their homes to sell drugs from. As well giving advice on how to spot the signs of vulnerable young people and adults being used in dealing drugs.
“County lines is a priority for West Mercia Police, we want to ensure the region becomes a no go area for travelling criminality. We will continue to pursue and prosecute those who bring drugs into our counties, commit violence and exploit vulnerable members of our communities.”
Anyone with suspicions that a property is being used to sell drugs from, or that a young and/ or vulnerable individual may be getting involved with county lines drug dealing is asked to contact their local police station or to ring 101 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111 where the information can be given anonymously.