38 arrests, drugs and cash seized as well as 23 people safeguarded during county lines force wide week of action
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Criminals linked to county lines drug dealing have been targeted during a week of action across Cheshire.
Officers arrested 38 people in total with the majority being on suspicion of drug offences as well as some being in possession of a knife and driving offences.A large number of drugs were recovered including 497 wraps of crack cocaine and heroin, 17 cannabis deals, almost 1kg of cocaine valued at an approximate total of £69,000 as well as £27,000 in cash seized.
Police also recovered 63 mobile phones, three vehicles, seven knives and eight other weapons including an air pistol and air rifle.
Twenty addresses were identified and visited by officers linked to cuckooing – a term used to describe how organised crime groups either befriend, manipulate or force themselves into the homes lived in by vulnerable people in order to use the property to store and sell heroin and crack cocaine.
At least 23 people were identified as being vulnerable and at risk of criminal exploitation by county line drug gangs. Officers worked with local authorities and charities to provide specialist support and advice to safeguard them.
Local officers engaged with businesses including taxi companies, estate agents and community centres providing them with information packs about what county lines is and how to spot signs of vulnerability and criminality and report it to police.
Both primary and secondary schools received visits from officers to educate pupils and teachers on how organised crime gangs recruit youngsters to deal drugs on their behalf and the signs they should look out for.
The week of action ran from Monday 3 October to Sunday 9 October and was part of a national focus co-ordinated by the National Police Chiefs Council (NPCC).
Detective Inspector Amber Hodson said:
“Protecting and preventing young children and vulnerable adults from organised crime gangs who go out of their way to exploit them continues to be one of our top priorities.
“We work closely with the local authority to educate, warn and inform young children, their parents and teachers by visiting schools to give talks and presentations of the signs to look out for and how to protect themselves.
“We also work with charities to identify and visit adults in our community who we think could be most vulnerable and a target for organised crime groups. We’re able to offer them the support they need and further prevent them from becoming a victim of exploitation.”
These are some signs that could mean a child or vulnerable adult might be a victim of criminal exploitation:
• A child or young person going missing from school or home and travelling to market towns or rural areas • The use of drugs and alcohol • Having more money, new expensive clothes or accessories which they are unable to account for • Forming relationships and meeting with controlling or older people or groups • Carrying weapons • Increase in visitors or cars to a house or flat • People coming and going at odd times of the day and night • Strange smells coming from the property (illegal drugs) • Cars pulling up to or near the house for a short period of time
Detective Inspector Hodson added:
“I think the community are aware of how persistent we are in creating an atmosphere that is perceived as hostile to these criminals and the week of action was a snapshot of what officers across the country are doing on a daily basis.
“It’s important the public know that this good work can only continue if communities not only learn to understand the signs of activity linked to serious and organised crime but to come forward to report that information – no matter how small.
“Let us know when you think somebody is being exploited, when you think a house might have been taken over by drug dealers or when you get the feeling that something just isn’t quite right. Feed that information to us, or anonymously through Crimestoppers, and we will act on that.”
Police and Crime Commissioner for Cheshire, John Dwyer said:
“This week of action demonstrates the commitment to making Cheshire a hostile environment for criminals and is an example of the fantastic work done by Cheshire Constabulary to disrupt and dismantle serious organised crime groups. My thanks go to every officer involved for their dedication and hard work.
“The work that the Constabulary has done around educating young people on how organised crime groups recruit youngsters to commit crime on their behalf, should also be commended. A priority that is highlighted in my Police and Crime Plan is to protect vulnerable and at-risk people, with children and young people being some of the most vulnerable in society it is so important to educate them on the signs to look out for and how to stay safe.”