Arrests made, cash seized and vulnerable people helped during week-long crackdown on county lines

Arrests were made, £10,000 was seized and vulnerable people were safeguarded during a week-long intensified focus on the issue of county lines drugs crime in Cumbria.

More than 1,100 people also received expert advice about this type of exploitation and offending as police officers and staff visited groups and schools to raise awareness of the threats to communities.

County lines is a term used to describe gangs and organised networks involved in exporting drugs into other areas, using dedicated mobile phone lines.

Officers in the county take action every day to tackle the threat from county lines drugs gangs and protect those potentially being exploited.

Police in Cumbria have had success in disrupting and catching numerous county lines drugs gangs in recent years, with significant sentences handed out in the courts.

Throughout the week of intensification, running March 4 to 10, law enforcement nationally collectively stepped up its response and enhanced active investigations.

During this week, it is suspected enquiries led to the disruption of another of these lines in the Carlisle area, with a man from Merseyside charged following enquiries.

Detective Chief Inspector Andy Myers, head of Cumbria Police’s serious and organised crime unit, said: “This is just a snapshot of the work our officers and staff do all-year-round to tackle suspected county lines crime.

“We are unrelenting in our pursuit of all drug traffickers, including those operating using the county lines model.

“One of our main aims is also to prevent people being drawn into county lines, including diverting children and young people away from a way of life that is massively damaging to their own communities and their future prospects.”

Results from action taken during the week include:

  • The arrest of four people in the Stainmore area, with a quantity of suspected MCAT – otherwise known as mephedrone – seized.
  • The seizure of cocaine and a baton torch weapon as a man was arrested in Carlisle.
  • The seizure of £10,000 from under the driver’s seat of a car that had visited Carlisle from outside the county.
  • Arrest of a teenager on suspicion of possession of drugs with intent to supply after large quantity of cannabis was seized in Carlisle.

Preventative work

As well as enforcement, officers seek to prevent county lines drugs gangs getting a foothold in the first place.

Educational inputs were given to a range of groups at schools, other public services or organisations with relevance to large sections of the community.

These included shop and restaurant staff, university students, NHS staff, members of the Landlords Association, scores of primary school pupils, hundreds of sixth form students and new staff working on probation and support agencies.

The force also has County Lines Prevent officers who help those at risk of being drawn into county lines. Working with partners, they divert those people away from this world.

They made more than 50 visits to vulnerable people, with referrals to support agencies made in relation to some of those visited.

DCI Myers added: “County lines can bring misery to communities, in the form of drug dealing and serious violence.

“That is why we work to prevent drugs gangs making inroads in the first place and stopping people being drawn in.”

 Partnership work

Work was carried out with other agencies throughout the week.

This included linking up with the national charity The Children’s Society on some of the educational visits and drawing on the expertise of the Well Communities, a recovery organisation that supports those who are recovering from addiction

There was also collaborative working with British Transport Police and the Civil Nuclear Constabulary to ensure all forces operating in Cumbria were involved.

DCI Myers added: “Drug supply can involve the exploitation of some the most vulnerable members of the community: children, young people and vulnerable adults.

“The people involved in this world use and abuse our communities and line their pockets by ruining lives and badly affecting the neighbourhoods you live in.

“They blight the lives of the people working for them and exploited by them, cause addiction in the people buying their drugs – and then there are the knock-on effect of anti-social behaviour and associated crime.

“But to keep up that work we need the information and intelligence to keep coming to us.

“Help us to protect your communities.”

Cumbria’s Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner, Peter McCall, said: “Yet again, our Police are demonstrating through robust action that dealing in drugs will not be tolerated and that every effort will be taken to catch those who deal in this awful trade and bring them to justice.

 

“This is another extremely good example of the work continually carried out by the Police to bear down on drug dealers and the county lines gangs who operate this damaging trade preying on vulnerable people.

 

“Drugs have a devastating effect on communities and on the lives of the vulnerable young people that are lured in to transporting and selling drugs with the promise of a better life, when the reality they become trapped in a life of destructive crime.

 

“The Police are doing a superb job and I commend everyone involved in yet another outstanding operation.  Whilst the police are and will continue to take very firm action, we can all help by giving any and all information where we have it, intelligence is vital for the police to target resource and stop this awful trade.

 

“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 together and create a safer Cumbria for everyone.”

 

James Simmonds-Read, national programme manager at The Children’s Society, speaking about the issue nationally, said:

“In a concerning trend, criminals are increasingly targeting and manipulating children into taking part in financial activity which is often criminal and dangerous, while benefiting the people making it happen.

“Sadly, financial exploitation is often connected to other forms of abuse.

“What may start with sharing bank details and the promise of easy cash can then turn into threats of sexual abuse or children being made to hold or move drugs for criminal groups.

“It’s a serious problem which needs attention to protect children from being exploited.

“Financial exploitation can happen to any child, in any village, town or city regardless of their background.

“While criminals don’t care about the children they target online through gaming and social media platforms, or places like shops and cashpoints, we know the public do care about keeping children safe.

“If you see or suspect a young person is being exploited, please call the police on 101 or 999 if there is an immediate risk. If you’re on a train, text the British Transport Police on 61016. Alternatively, you can contact the NSPCC for advice on 0808 800 5000.”

What are the signs of county lines?

Police are also working to highlight the signs and symptoms to look out for in vulnerable young people.

These could include:

    • Travelling alone, frequently, particularly in school hours or late at night.
    • Looking lost or in unfamiliar surroundings.
    • Appearing anxious, frightened, angry or displaying other behaviour that make you worried about them.
    • Being in possession of more than one phone.
    • Carrying lots of cash.

Do you have information that can help us?

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.


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