‘County lines’ is a term used to describe organised criminal networks involved in exporting illegal drugs out of bigger cities into smaller towns in the UK, using dedicated mobile phone lines or other form of ‘deal line’. They are likely to exploit children and vulnerable adults to move and store the drugs and money, and they will often use coercion, intimidation, violence and weapons.
The operation was the result of a coordinated effort between officers and staff from Operation Monument, Operation Themis and the High Harm Neighbourhood Policing Teams, working in partnership with the South East Regional Organised Crime Unit (SEROCU), British Transport Police and Ministry of Defence Police to ensure a joined up approach to sharing information and resources to dismantle county lines networks.
Last week’s operation saw officers target 53 cuckooed addresses, stop/check over 85 vehicles for organised crime usage, rail stations and ferry ports checked for ‘drug mules’ or signs of child exploitation carry drugs and a further 12 pre-planned warrants executed on addresses believed to be used in county lines activity through intelligence gathered in the weeks before this national week of intensification.
‘Cuckooing’ is the term used for when drug dealers use violence, exploitation and intimidation to take over the home of a vulnerable person in order to use it as a base for drug dealing. Officer spoke to 39 adults considered vulnerable and potentially at risk of being exploited by dealers and signposted them to appropriate support.
The Neighbourhood Policing Teams used the week to engage with local residents in order to share information about county lines drug dealing in the area, to reassure, and to raise awareness of the issues surrounding county lines with 16 children being identified as vulnerable and safeguarded.
A significant amount of intelligence has also been gathered through this week of action helping to inform future assessment of threat, risk and harm within local communities from these organised crime networks.
Results from our activities included recovery and seizure of the following:
- 166g crack cocaine and 88+ wraps
- 47g heroin and 85+ wraps
- 1.26 kg cocaine and two wraps
- 580g cannabis.
- An additional £45k+ worth of suspected Class A drugs (yet to be forensically analysed) was also located from 3 x large seizures in Southampton, Gosport and Andover.
- £47k+ cash (POCA)
- Over 10 weapons – the vast majority being knives and a machete. In additional knife surrender bins and knife sweeps recovered another 10 knives in Southampton.
- A large quantity of suspected stolen goods
- 51 mobile phones
The vast majority of the arrests were for adult males, with 8 of those brought into custody under 18, 2 females, with offenders from London, Dorset and Kent.
During the week of action, 4 county line and serious violence drug-related networks have been disrupted.
Hampshire Constabulary’s led for drug-related harm, Chief Superintendent, Nigel Lecointe, said:
“At the heart of this week of intensification is the aim to bring down county lines networks and safeguarding exploited children and the vulnerable.
“County Lines and local drug networks cause misery for our communities and it is absolutely right that we continue putting significant effort into identifying and arresting those involved.
“The collaborative work between Hampshire Constabulary and our partners will only increase and intensify in the coming weeks and months ahead. We will continue to shine a spotlight on and bring to justice those running these toxic drug networks.
“There is this strong link between drugs and violence, and we have made significant efforts to understand the impact of those involved in County Lines on violence and other crime that spills into our neighbourhoods.”