Arrests were made across a number of towns as Cumbria Constabulary targeted county lines drugs crime during a week-long national focus on the issue.
Patrols were launched in south Cumbria, leading to arrests in Barrow, Kendal and Windermere throughout the intensification period, with crack cocaine, heroin, £1,860 in cash and a knife seized.
Officers also visited about 15 people identified as being potentially vulnerable to this type of offence to check on their safety, offer initial support and give out details of agencies for ongoing support.
As well as this, there was work with partners, leaflet drops and other work to raise awareness in communities and point out the signs of exploitation or drug dealing in their neighbourhoods.
Officers in the county take action every day to tackle the threat from county lines drugs gangs and protect those potentially being exploited.
Throughout the week of intensification, running March 7 to 13, law enforcement collectively stepped up its response and enhanced active investigations.
County lines is the name used to describe a crime network trafficking drugs using dedicated mobile phone lines.
They exploit young people and vulnerable adults to move and sell the drugs and sometimes ‘cuckoo’ the homes of vulnerable or drug-addicted people, taking them over and using their property as a drugs base.
Detective Inspector Ed Russell said: “We work all-year-round to tackle the threat from county lines and stop these gangs getting a foothold in our communities.
“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 violence, fear and intimidation.
“We have a track record of putting such gangs before the courts and the subsequent significant sentences have seen many lines and set-ups dismantled or disrupted.
“County lines is exploitative drug supply and is devastating to local communities, well beyond those who are directly involved in the local drugs scene.
“The work we do closely with our external partners and those working in other police forces and regional law enforcement is vital in our fight against drug trafficking and county lines.”
Among the police departments involved throughout the work were local neighbourhood police teams and patrol officers, serious organised crime teams, roads policing, proactive teams and analytics staff.
There was partnership work to raise awareness of the issue and to help with offering support to those vulnerable to this type of criminality.
DI Russell added: “While law enforcement has made significant progress on this issue, it is not something we can tackle alone.
“Local agencies, charities, partners, schools, parents all need to help us to protect the most vulnerable in our communities.
“Tackling county lines is in equal parts about safeguarding victims, shutting down the line and targeting line holders.”
Cumbria’s Police and Crime Commissioner, Peter McCall, said: “This intensification week highlights the type of work that Cumbria Constabulary achieves year-round to tackle county lines and drugs in our communities.
“Drugs can have a devastating effect on communities, on the lives of the vulnerable young people that are lured into transporting and selling drugs with the promise of a better life.
“The police do a fantastic job, but they need the help of local people to help identify any suspicious activity.
“The public know their area better than anyone so if you see anything suspicious, please report it to the police on 101, 999 in an emergency or anonymously through Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.
“It’s so important that we continue to tackle county lines and create a safer Cumbria for everyone.”
WORRED ABOUT DRUG USE? HOW TO GET HELP
If you are worried about your own, or someone else’s drug use, help is available.
Recovery Steps Cumbria provides free and confidential support at locations across the county.
Call 01900 512300 or email firstname.lastname@example.org to arrange to speak to someone, or visit https://humankindcharity.org.uk/service/recovery-steps-cumbria/ for more information.
Do you have information about drugs crime?
Anyone with information can report online at www.cumbria.police.uk/report-it
You can also phone on 101.
Alternatively, you can contact Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.
County Lines and drug dealing – Spot the signs on your street
- New faces or accents in the neighbourhood
- Lots of different and regular visitors to a house on your street
- Increase in obvious drug-related activity
Spot the signs in children and young people
- Change in behaviour
- New friends
- Going missing
- Unexplained injuries
- Unexplained new possessions, such as phones or clothes
- Unexplained travel, such as going on trains and coaches on their own
- New risk-taking behaviour
- Substance abuse
Spot the signs in vulnerable people
- Regular visitors to their home
- New, unexplained visitors or support network
- Becoming cut-off or estranged from family or existing friends or support network
- New risk-taking behaviour
- Substance abuse
So what is county lines?
- County lines is a growing issue across the UK – and Cumbria is no exception.
- It describes a type of gang and organised crime network which traffics drugs using dedicated mobile phone lines.
- Drug users ring a number to place orders – and local street dealers deliver.
- The gangs may exploit children and vulnerable adults, using them to move and store drugs and cash traveling across “county lines”.
- Our officers are catching and bringing before the courts those involved, with many receiving long jail spells.