50 arrests, 16 people safeguarded, drugs, weapons and cash seized in county lines crackdown
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Criminals linked to county lines drug dealing have been targeted during a week of action across Cheshire.
Officers arrested 50 people, 41 men and nine women, including four teenagers, on suspicion of drug offences.
A large number of drugs were recovered including 10kg of cocaine, 35 cannabis deals and 259 wraps of crack cocaine and heroin and £104,000 in cash.
Police also seized three vehicles, high value watches, 47 mobile phones and weapons including a samurai sword and knives.
Fifteen addresses 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 – were visited by officers.
At least 16 people, 10 men and seven women, were identified as vulnerable and at risk of criminal exploitation by drug gangs. Officers worked with local authorities and charities to provide specialist support and advice to safeguard them.
Local officers visited primary and secondary schools 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 7 March to Sunday 13 March and was part of a national focus co-ordinated by the National Police Chiefs Council (NPCC).
T/Assistant Chief Constable Bill Dutton said: “Protecting and preventing young children and vulnerable adults from organised crime gangs who go out of their way to exploit them remains one of our top priorities.
“We don’t this on our own, we work with our partners to educate young children, their parents and teachers by visiting schools to give talks and presentations of the signs to look out for. We also identify and visit adults in our community who we think could be at risk to provide them with the support they need and further prevent them from becoming a victim of exploitation.”
These are some signs a child or vulnerable adult is 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
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
ACC Dutton added: “I think the community are aware of how relentless we are in creating an atmosphere that is perceived as hostile to these criminals and the week of action is a snapshot of what officers across the country are doing every day.
“However we can only do this good work if communities come forward with the information.
“Let us know when you think somebody is being exploited, when you think a house may be being taken over by drug dealers and when you think there's suspicious activity. Feed that information to us, or through Crimestoppers, and we will act on that.”
John Dwyer, Police and Crime Commissioner for Cheshire said: “Protecting vulnerable and at-risk people is a priority in my Police and Crime Plan and I’m delighted to see the Constabulary take concrete action on the scourge of county lines.
“Criminals involved in these gangs cruelly exploit the most vulnerable in society. They should be under no illusion that Cheshire is a hostile environment for them, and that we will do everything we can to get them and their drugs off our streets.
“People in Cheshire can be assured that we will continue to take positive action to bring down organised crime gangs and protect our communities.”
You can find all the signs you should be looking out for here
If you believe drug activity is taking place in your community please contact Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.