Stopping county lines at source is key, says police boss as known drug ring number drops

A police boss insists working backwards to take out those "driving the business" of the county lines drugs trade in Shropshire is key.

Superintendent Stuart Bill
Superintendent Stuart Bill

Since May last year, police says known drug lines in the county have been reduced from 23 to seven.

County lines are where drug gangs from major cities and towns target smaller, often rural communities, often exploiting vulnerable people in the process.

West Mercia Police in Shropshire have been working with officers in Merseyside and other areas of the country to disrupt drug rings and attack the problem at its source.

Officers recently cracked down and closed two county lines operations, arresting 38 people across the West Mercia force area as well as seizing drugs worth more than £7,000, weapons including knives and machetes, plus £15,000 in cash. That was part of the National Crime Agency’s County Lines Intensification Week.

Superintendent Stu Bill described it as an "absolutely awful crime" which targets those in peril, and tackling the root cause is an important part of fighting the issue.

"We know that the criminals at the heart of them are determined to try and sell their product," he said. "It's a business to them.

"It targets the most vulnerable in the community. People from deprived backgrounds, giving them the incentive to make money.

"The reality is, there is real harm being caused to them both physically and psychologically, especially in terms of addictions that can start up as a result. It's an absolutely awful crime."

He added: "Our communities will talk about the local dealer being prosecuted. We need to deal with the dealer, but often that person will be vulnerable themselves. What is really important is to work backward to try and take out the line. That way you are dealing with the real criminals that are driving the business.

"That's not to say we won't offer interventions with street dealers. But often there is a more complex story with them."

Anyone with suspicions that a property is being used to sell drugs, or that a young or vulnerable individual may be getting involved with County Lines drug dealing can report this online under the Tell Us About section of the police website westmercia.police.uk

Alternatively, contact Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555111.

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