15 people have been arrested and thousands of pounds in cash and drugs have been seized from suspected criminal gangs in East Lancashire as part of a dedicated week that saw co-ordinated action against county line offenders and safeguarding victims.
County Lines Intensification Week ran nationally from 27th February to 5th March and saw operations, dedicated warrants, safeguarding of and visits to vulnerable people, as well as schoolchildren, to educate them on the issue across East Lancashire.
County Lines is the transportation of illegal drugs from one area to another, usually by children or vulnerable adults who are coerced into it by criminal gangs.
During the week, 17 people who had been identified as being vulnerable were engaged with, and 13 men were arrested, along with 2 people aged under 18.
Four addresses believed to have been cuckooed were also visited, with the occupants being signposted to local help services.
Over £33,000 worth of Class A and B drugs were seized, including cannabis plants, as well as quantities of cocaine, heroin, crack cocaine. 8 mobile phones, £21,900 worth of cash, and 2 weapons were also seized.
Schools were visited to provide education on how gangs will criminally exploit children and adults and have given advice on signs to look for if somebody is being exploited. Some of these signs include children frequently going missing and then returning home, having more clothes, mobile phones, or cash than usual, receiving excessive text messages or phone calls and disengagement from school.
Detective Inspector Kate Kennedy said: “Last week’s activity which was in conjunction with the national effort to target and disrupt those involved in organised crime is just a fragment of the work we do with our partners day in day out, to tackle County Lines.
“We want to make East Lancashire a difficult place for criminals to operate, and we are committed to continuing our work to close down these lines, protect vulnerable people and remove those who exploit from our streets.
“If you suspect there is drug dealing going on in your area, please report it to us.”
Andrew Snowden, Police and Crime Commissioner for Lancashire said: "Tackling county lines and cross border criminals is a key part of the fight against organised crime in Lancashire.
"I made it a key priority in my Fighting Crime Plan and the Constabulary is delivering it through Op Warrior, the force-wide operation that is stepping up the pressure in disrupting and dismantling these gangs. The number of raids, arrests and drug seizures speak for themselves, and we won't stop making Lancashire a hostile place for offenders, wherever they are from.
"Organised crime gangs are a blight on society, who bring fear, violence, drugs and exploitation into Lancashire, and with county lines it's even more important to utilise the relationships we have with partners such as the North West Regional Organised Crime Unit, National Crime Agency and other police forces, to keep people safe and ensure offenders have their day in court. "
For more information and how to spot the signs of exploitation, visit County Lines - Spot The Signs | Eyes Open (eyes-open.co.uk)
If you believe that someone may be involved in County Lines or other drugs activity, you can report it to us by calling 101. Alternatively, you can report it via the independent charity Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111 or report your concerns anonymously online at Crimestoppers-uk-org. If you think someone is in immediate danger, call 999.