More than 500 county lines gang members arrested in national crackdown, say police

Officers seize cash, drugs and weapons including four guns and a crossbow

Margaret Davis
Tuesday 21 May 2019 06:04
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Police raid property used by 'county lines' drug dealers

More than 500 suspected members of county lines drugs gangs have been arrested as part of a national crackdown.

Police forces across the UK seized more than £312,000 in cash and £230,000 worth of cocaine and heroin during the week-long operation between 13 and 20 May.

A total of 46 weapons were seized, including four guns, swords, machetes, an axe, knives, samurai swords, and a crossbow.

The operation, co-ordinated by the National County Lines Coordination Centre, also saw 30 people referred as potential victims of slavery or human trafficking. A total of 500 men and 86 women were arrested, while 519 vulnerable adults and 364 children were safeguarded, according to police.

It has been estimated there are around 2,000 county lines gangs who groom young people and vulnerable adults and force them to carry drugs from urban centres into more rural areas.

“Tackling county lines and the misery it causes is a national law enforcement priority and these results demonstrate the power of a whole-system response to a complex problem that we’re seeing in every area of the UK,” said Nikki Holland from the National Crime Agency (NCA).

“We know that criminal networks use high levels of violence, exploitation and abuse to ensure compliance from the vulnerable people they employ to do the day-to-day drug supply activity.”

Ms Holland added: “We are making progress in our fight against County Lines but we need the help of professionals working with people at risk of being involved in or exploited by County Lines.

“It’s the nurses, teachers, social workers, GPs, and anyone who works with young or vulnerable people, that can really help to make a difference.”

Signs that a young person may have fallen prey to a county lines gang include: suddenly having new unaffordable belongings, going missing a lot, having friendships with older people or having unexplained injuries.

The number of cases of modern slavery involving UK minors went from 676 in 2017 to 1,421 in 2018.

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Iryna Pona, policy manager at The Children’s Society, said: “It is good to see police are stepping up their fight against the horrors of county lines trafficking with enforcement operations like these.

“But everyone, including professionals, needs to know how to spot the signs that something is wrong and accept that these young people are not troublemakers, but vulnerable children who are being groomed and need help.”

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