A NATIONAL week of police action against ‘County Lines’ drugs networks across the West Midlands has resulted in 64 arrests.
County lines – whereby drug-dealing gangs from cities expand their operations to other areas – has been growing every year, with rural areas and smaller towns plagued by drug and serious violence with evidence of gangs still pushing children into drugs trafficking.
Organised crime gangs were targeted and almost 40 warrants were executed across the force area last week at addresses suspected of links to cross-border drugs supply chains. Of the 64 people arrested, 11 have already been charged with offences. Police seized 25 wraps of cocaine and heroin, more than 1,000 cannabis plants, plus weapons including imitation handguns
Officers from West Midlands Police teamed up with British Transport Police colleagues on the lookout for offenders at train stations and other transport hubs. This included a two-day operation in South Wales following recent incidents of missing West Midlands children being found in suspicious circumstances in Swansea – and fears they were being exploited to run drugs.
Lead officer for County Lines, Superintendent Rich Agar, said: “County Lines is a really cynical crime. Offenders often groom and exploit children to do the drug running – the dirty, dangerous work – on their behalf. They see vulnerable people as commodities.
“So while we had a real focus on going after suspected offenders, we also invested lots of time and effort reaching children to raise awareness with them of the risks and to show that we’re here to support them.
“We did around 80 inputs at schools and also spoke to teenagers in children’s homes; we need to work collectively to keep vulnerable children safe from the clutches of drugs gangs.”
Police also ran automatic number plate recognition operations (ANPR) on the roads network looking for people transporting drugs by road and targeted taxi operations suspected of being used by drug runners, while also raising awareness with control rooms to report any suspicious fares.
The action formed part of a County Lines Intensification Week, September 14-21, which saw police forces across the UK share intelligence and join forces to tackle drugs networks.
West Midlands Police intelligence suggests there are currently around 100 County Lines running out of Birmingham across the UK, to places as far afield as Cornwall and Scotland.
Supt Agar added: “We’ve had lots of success in shutting down lines in recent years and convicting the heads of these drugs lines who are now serving many years behind bars.
“It’s crucial we work with police colleagues in neighbouring forces and across the UK – plus other partners – to effectively tackle the scourge of County Lines and that’s exactly what we did last week to great effect.”