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County lines crackdown: police make almost 600 arrests

COUNTY LINES CRACKDOWN: Police made almost 600 arrests during a week-long operation this month

ALMOST 600 people have been arrested as part of a crackdown on county lines drug gangs, the National Crime Agency has revealed.

The operation, coordinated by the National County Lines Coordination Centre (NCLCC), also resulted in 46 weapons and more than £300,000 being seized.

During the week long operation, which took place between May 13 and 20, more than £100,000 worth of cocaine, £36,000 worth of crack cocaine and almost £18,000 worth of heroin was seized.

National Crime Agency county lines lead and director of investigations Nikki Holland, said: “Tackling county lines and the misery it causes is a national law enforcement priority and these results demonstrate the power of a whole-system response to a complex problem that we’re seeing in every area of the UK.

“We know that criminal networks use high levels of violence, exploitation and abuse to ensure compliance from the vulnerable people they employ to do the day-to-day drug supply activity.”

Police made visits to vulnerable people – including those at risk of cuckooing, the practice of dealers taking over an individual’s home as a base for their drugs operation – and placed 364 children into safeguarding arrangements.

“Thanks to the hard work of law enforcement officers there are now fewer drugs on the streets, more vulnerable people safeguarded and the public can be reassured that collectively we are committed to tackling serious and organised crime offenders and safeguarding victims,” Holland said.

At risk young people and vulnerable adults can be groomed by county lines gangs to transport drugs around the country.

Often those exploited by drug dealers in this way are reluctant to speak to the police because they don’t identify as victims and are grateful for the attention and financial rewards they receive.

National Police Chiefs’ Council lead for county lines, deputy assistant commissioner Duncan Ball, said: “Tackling county lines is not something we can do alone and we need the public to help us by reporting any information or concerns.”

Last week, three county lines drug dealers who manipulated vulnerable teenagers into acting as drug runners in Portsmouth were jailed.

Glodi Wabelua, Dean Alford and Michael Karemera, all 25, were sentenced to three-and-a-half years, four years and five years respectively.

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