Police support national operation to tackle county lines

Police have last week been carrying out activity in support of the national crackdown on the growing problem of drug dealing known as ‘county lines’.

County lines is a term used to describe the supply of illegal drugs, typically from a larger urban centre to smaller towns or rural areas, through the manipulation and exploitation of vulnerable people.

Gangs often recruit susceptible people to move both drugs and cash between areas, as well as bullying tactics to invade vulnerable people’s homes in which they harbour and deal their illicit wares (known as cuckooing).

The National Crime Agency (NCA) and National Police Chief’s Council (NPCC) have responded to this emerging threat by creating a National County Lines Coordination Centre to develop the national intelligence picture of the crime type. The centre is also working to prioritise activity against the most serious offenders and engaging with partners to tackle the wider issues.

To support this work, throughout last week, police executed a number of warrants in the Hinckley, Loughborough and Market Harborough areas, leading to 21 people being arrested, four of which have been charged. The warrants also resulted in a significant amount of class A and class B drugs being seized, more than £2500 in cash and a number of weapons, including a shotgun and a machete.

Four addresses, three in Hinckley and one in Market Harborough, were also identified as being used for cuckooing and these are now subject to closure orders. In addition, seven homes in the North West Leicestershire area have also recently been given closures orders as part of a joint police and council operation to tackle drug dealing activity.

Detective Inspector Helena Bhakta said: “As a force, our immediate concern and focus is to protect those vulnerable people in our communities who are susceptible and easily led into this lifestyle as well as to disrupt offending. It is important we raise awareness and encourage communities to come forward and report this type of criminality to us.

“We are continuing to work closely with partners in social care, health, education, housing, immigration and probation to identify incidents with a view to safeguard those involved and encourage reporting of suspected county lines activity.

Superintendent Shane O’Neill, who is the force lead for Serious Harm Reduction, added: “This is not an issue which can be eradicated by the police alone and local communities can play a large part in identifying problem areas and those they think may be a risk.

“County lines activity is clearly organised crime that the force will continue to work in partnership to deal locally and inform the national picture around this crime.”

Do you know a young person who may be susceptible to being drawn into drug dealing? Have things changed?

Spot the signs:
• Have they started hanging around with a different crowd, skipping school and staying out late?
• Are they being secretive and withdrawn?
• Do they have unexplained injuries?
• Do they suddenly have more money and can afford expensive things like phones, watches and branded clothing?

Could a house or flat near you have been ‘taken over’ by a gang and being used to sell drugs? Have things changed?

Spot the signs:
• Has there been an increase in the number of coming and goings?
• Are there new vehicles turning up outside the property, as well as taxis or hire cars?
• Are there people living there who you haven’t seen before?
• Has there been an increase in anti-social behaviour in and around the property?
• Does the property appear sparse of valuable possessions?
• Is the building and garden being left in a state of disrepair?

Reporting suspicious activity can help to safeguard many vulnerable individuals who have been coerced into these networks so please report it on 101 or via Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.

Source:: Leicestershire Police News

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