More than 1,000 arrests in week-long crackdown on County Lines gangs

More than 1,000 people were arrested and 292 weapons were confiscated as part of a national crackdown on drug trafficking gangs in the county.

Armed forces across the UK stepped up activity in the week beginning May 17, with 1,100 arrests. 33 weapons and 219 knives among the weapons seized, as well as the identification of 80 telephone lines for drug trafficking.

It is currently believed that there are around 600 county line gangs operating in the UK, down from around 2,000 two years ago.

The crime gangs are urban drug dealers who sell to customers in rural areas using special telephone lines.

They are notorious for exploiting children to work as couriers and forcing vulnerable people to use their homes to hide or deal with drugs, as portrayed in the BBC drama Line Of Duty.

During the week of action, 904 of these “cuckoo houses” were visited by law enforcement agencies and 1,138 vulnerable people were protected.

Graham McNulty, National Police Chiefs’ Council Assistant Commissioner for County Lines, said, “The police response to County Lines has increased significantly in the past 18 months. We have tirelessly pursued those behind the line and done all we can to save those who are being exploited.

“Intensification weeks like this allow us to use a range of activities and resources at the national level to demonstrate to the public our absolute determination to rid the communities of this heinous crime.

“We will use whatever powers we have to target every element of the circle line network as we understand the impact violence and crime related to circle lines can have in our communities.

“It is important that everyone look out for signs of exploitation.

“This could be a child with unexplained cash, a new expensive phone, or new clothes, who suddenly goes missing, has train tickets or taxi receipts, has changed behavior, and suddenly new people appear in a house or apartment.

“If you are concerned, please contact your local police or call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.”

The National Crime Agency, which was also involved in Action Week, saw operations that resulted in the seizure of 500 kg of cocaine from a shipping container at the London Gateway, as well as the discovery of 17 kg of heroin after a Polish driver was stopped in Coquelles, France.

Another truck driver was charged with smuggling 107 kg of cocaine worth £ 8.5 million into the UK on a ferry from Holland.

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