1,100 arrested in national crackdown on county lines drug gangs

26 May 2021, 23:59

The police and National Crime Agency joined forces for the week-long crackdown on county lines drug gangs
The police and National Crime Agency joined forces for the week-long crackdown on county lines drug gangs. Picture: PA

By Emma Soteriou

Over 1,000 people have been arrested and 292 weapons seized in a country-wide crackdown on county lines drugs gangs.

Officers seized 33 guns and 219 knives as they launched a number of raids across the country and arrested 1,100 people and identified 80 drug dealing phone lines.

There are currently thought to be around 600 county lines gangs operating in the UK, down from around 2,000 two years ago.

Urban drug dealers sell to customers in rural areas using dedicated phone lines.

Children and vulnerable people are often exploited in the process, to help in hiding the drugs in their homes as well as dealing.

Over the week in action, 904 of these "cuckooed" homes were visited by law enforcement, and 1,138 vulnerable people were safeguarded.

Read more: £80 million of cocaine found washed up on UK coast

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The National Crime Agency seized cocaine and heroin during the week of action
The National Crime Agency seized cocaine and heroin during the week of action. Picture: PA

The National Crime Agency, who were also involved in the week's operations, seized 500kg of cocaine from a shipping container at London Gateway, and 17kg of heroin from a van driver who was stopped at Coquelles in France.

National Crime Agency Director of Investigations Nikki Holland said: "It is a high priority for the NCA to build on the successes we have had in source countries and along the drugs supply routes, so that organised crime groups land fewer drugs in our towns and cities and prevent them being pushed further afield through county lines groups."

The week came after "a very busy year" for the agency, in their attempts to stop the smuggling of Class A drugs.

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National Police Chiefs' Council lead for county lines, Deputy Assistant Commissioner Graham McNulty, said: "The police response to county lines has increased substantially over the past 18 months, we have been relentless in pursuing those behind the line whilst doing everything possible to rescue those being exploited.

"Intensification weeks like this allow us to dedicate a burst of activity and resources nationally, highlighting to the public our absolute determination to rid communities of this abhorrent crime.

"We will use all the powers available to us to tackle every element of the county line network because we know the effect violence and crimes associated with county lines can have in our communities.

"It is vital that everyone looks out for the signs of exploitation.

"This may be a child with unexplained cash, a new expensive phone or clothing, suddenly going missing, in possession of rail tickets or taxi receipts, a change in behaviour and new people suddenly appearing at a house or flat.

"If you are concerned then please contact your local police force or call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111."

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