Fifteen people were arrested as Cumbria Constabulary targeted county lines crime during a week-long national focus on the issue.
Officers in the county take action every day to tackle the threat from county lines drugs gangs and protect those potentially being exploited.
Throughout this week of intensification, law enforcement collectively stepped up its response and enhanced already active investigations.
Officers in Cumbria focused on disrupting the activities of those suspected to be involved in county lines through a number of policing tactics.
Results and action from the week, running from September 14 to 20, included:
- 15 arrests in total;
- Five of the arrests made in Barrow on one day, on suspicion of offences including possession of drugs, possessing an offensive weapon and being concerned in the supply of drugs;
- Two of the arrests in Carlisle, on suspicion of possession of drugs;
- Two arrested on the M6 on suspicion of money laundering;
- Four other arrests made in Barrow on suspicion of being concerned in the supply of drugs; There were also:
- Search warrants carried out at properties;
- 35 stop-searches made during a joint operation with Merseyside Police in Barrow, aimed at deterring county lines gangs;
- Safeguarding action taken over a number of vulnerable people
- Neighbourhood police teams raising awareness and carrying out leaflet drops at places such as GP surgeries, hotels and other partners.
County lines is the name used to describe a crime network trafficking drugs using dedicated mobile phone lines.
They exploit young people and vulnerable adults to move and sell the drugs and sometimes ‘cuckoo’ the homes of vulnerable or drug-addicted people, taking them over and using their property as a drugs base.
Detective Inspector Hayley Wilkinson said: “We’re committed to dismantling these criminal networks and to protecting the young and vulnerable people who are exploited by gangs and are subject to violence, fear and intimidation.
“County lines is exploitative drug supply and is devastating to local communities, well beyond those who are directly involved in the local drugs scene.
“We will do all we can to stop county lines drugs criminals targeting our communities as they aim to line their pockets at other people’s misery.
“Working closely with our external partners and partners in the police and regional organised crime units is vital in our fight against drug trafficking and county lines.
“Work carried out during the week was a good example to people involved in this criminality how we work together with other police forces and at a regional level to tackle this issue.”
DI Wilkinson added: “While law enforcement has made significant progress, this is not an issue we can tackle alone.
“Local agencies, charities, partners, schools, parents all need to help us protect the most vulnerable in our communities.”
Cumbria’s Police and Crime Commissioner, Peter McCall, said: “It’s good to see what Cumbria Constabulary have achieved during this week of action but the fight against county lines is a continuous operation.
“These criminals arrive in our towns and villages and target our most vulnerable young people with the false promise of monetary possessions and an extravagant lifestyle and it is our duty as a community to keep an eye out for any suspicious activity going on in our area.
“No one wants to see a young person being taken advantage of and subsequently arrested and charged for drug possession or the selling of drugs.”
COUNTY LINES – WHAT IS IT?
County Lines is the name given to a drug dealing model which involves criminals using phone lines to facilitate the supply of Class A drugs, normally between a major city and another county. The single phone line becomes the county line’s ‘brand’.
County lines is complex – it is important to understand it is not a crime type but a distribution model. It is the catalyst for a range of crime including modern slavery, violence and anti-social behaviour.
Some of the tell-tale signs of county lines are an increase in visitors or cars to a house or flat, regularly changing residents, signs of substance misuse or evident drug paraphernalia.
If you notice suspicious activity or have information about county lines drug dealing you can speak to police on 101 or call 999 in an emergency.