Officers from Cheshire Constabulary, Merseyside Police and British Transport Police joined forces on Wednesday 4 August, for Operation Medusa, an ongoing initiative to crackdown on county lines drug dealing and child criminal exploitation (CCE).
County lines drug dealing involves organised crime groups based in major cities or urban areas extending their criminal enterprise into more rural locations.
They often recruit and coerce young children and vulnerable adults to sell illegal drugs for them.
Inspector Brian Green, Chester LPU
As part of the operation officers flooded the main transport routes used by county lines drug dealers when travelling between Liverpool and Chester.
These included plain-clothed officers at both Chester and Liverpool Lime Street railway stations who were on the lookout for both county lines dealers and vulnerable people at risk of CCE.
Drugs dogs were also utilised by officers at the railway stations to identify passengers in possession of illegal substances.
There was also a number of marked and unmarked vehicles patrolling the main arterial routes in and out of Chester and Liverpool who were stopping any vehicles suspected of being involved in the supply of illegal drugs.
A quantity of drugs were seized as a result of the operation.
A total of 13 people were subsequently arrested on suspicion of offences including possession with intent to supply controlled drugs, being concerned in the supply of controlled drugs, theft of motor vehicle, recall to prison and drink and drug driving offences.
Four people have been charged with traffic related offences and others have been released under investigation for the drug dealing offences.
In addition, officers from Chester Local Policing unit also conducted a search warrant at two homes across the city resulting in the seizure of class B drugs.
Chief Inspector Mike Ankers, Commander at Chester Local Policing Unit, said: “We know that criminals don’t simply stop when they reach boarders. Indeed, organised crime groups based in major cities like Liverpool are always looking to extend their criminal activities into other locations, using mobile phones to let drug users know when and where they can buy illegal drugs from them locally.
“This operation forms part of our ongoing commitment to make our city a hostile place for criminals, disrupt illegal activity and make Chester a safer place to live, work and visit.
“However, it wasn’t just about catching criminals and seizing drugs, as part of the operation we also wanted to identify and safeguard vulnerable adults and children who are controlled, coerced and manipulated into dealing drugs on behalf of organised crime gangs.
“By doing so we can offer them the support that they require and help to set them on the right path for a better life.
“The operation has also helped us to gather further information on how transport networks are being used by county lines criminals.”
Police and Crime Commissioner for Cheshire John Dwyer said: “Operations like this today sent out a clear message that Cheshire isn’t a soft touch for criminals. I applaud the work of all of the organisations involved. It’s great to see so many people have been apprehended, items seized and children safeguarded. I support Cheshire’s Chief Constable’s priority to make Cheshire a hostile environment for offenders, and I will ensure he has the necessary resources needed to reduce the risks and threats posed by organised crime groups and to disrupt county lines drug activity at every level.”
Chief Inspector Ankers added: “Following this operation we will continue to work with other forces and partner agencies to do everything in our power to protect Chester residents from serious and organised crime.
“However, we also need support from the public. We need residents to be our eyes and ears by looking out for, and reporting, suspicious behaviour and signs of vulnerable children and adults being exploited.
“If you have any information that may help us to build more intelligence regarding county lines drug dealing, bring offenders to justice and keep vulnerable members of our communities safe then please get in touch.
“Together we can take dangerous substances off our streets.”