£ 400, 000 – worth of drugs also confiscated in a week as part of coordinated campaign
More than 700 people have been arrested and more than £ 400 , 000 – worth of drugs confiscated in a week of UK- wide crackdowns on county lines gangs, police have said.
In coordinated law enforcement activity between 7 and (October,) “deal lines” across Britain were disrupted, 389vulnerable adults and 292 children were safeguarded and 169 weapons were seized, including 12 guns, knives, sword s and machetes.
A total of £ 253, 200–worth of cocaine, £ 100, 170 – worth of crack cocaine and £ 72, 670 – worth of heroin were seized.
Policesaid they were “dismantling these criminal networks piece by piece ”. ******
The operation was led by the National County Lines Coordination Center (NCLCC), a Home-Office-funded unit aiming to target the organized gangs that take their name from mobile phone lines criminals set up to receive orders from drug users.
There are about 2, 000 lines in operation.
The county lines gangs use safe houses in smaller towns to support their operations in bigger cities, and often exploit young and vulnerable people by either taking over their homes, also called“Cuckooing”, or by employing them as drug couriers.
During the operation, 41 people were flagged up to the national referral mechanism, which assesses potential victims of human trafficking and modern slavery .
The National (Crime) Agency said 652 men and 91 women had been arrested, and 655 cuckooed addresses had been visited.
Duncan Ball, the National Police Chiefs ’Council lead for county lines, said:“ We will not treat the criminals who run these lines just as drug dealers. We will work tirelessly to prosecute them for these offences but also, where we have the evidence, we will seek to prosecute them for child trafficking under modern slavery laws to reflect the devastating nature of their exploitation of young and vulnerable people. ”
Nikki Holland, the National Crime Agency county lines lead and director of investigations, said: “The only way we can effectively tackle this national problem is by adopting a whole-system approach, with partners in public health, Department for Education, social care and the charity sector working to prevent that exploitation happening in the first place. ”
Lucy Dacey, the national disrupting exploitation program manager at the Children’s Society, urged the government to introduce an appropriately funded, national strategy to help end the prevailing “postcode lottery”.
“This week has highlighted the importance of supporting children as vulnerable victims of trafficking rather than criminals, but there is still much to do to ensure they consistently get the right response from all local agencies and are helped, not punished, ”Dacey said.