Police in West Cumbria are conducting a major operation to tackle county lines drugs crime, warning any gangs aiming to move into the area: “We will stop you.”
Arrests have been made, drugs warrants executed, vehicles stopped and patrols stepped up during a two-month crackdown, mainly in Workington.
Operation Earnest was launched at the start of September.
The aim is to stop county lines drugs gangs targeting this part of the county following intelligence suggesting it was a growing problem.
County lines is a term used to describe gangs and organised networks involved in exporting drugs into other areas, using dedicated mobile phone lines.
During the operation, results so far have included:
- More than 25 arrests on suspicion of offences including class A drug supply and weapons offences. Cases are progressing through the criminal justice system.
- Drugs with a total street value of more than £100,000 recovered. The drug types seized have mainly included heroin and crack cocaine.
- Two hundred homes visited as officers spoke face-to-face with residents to see what issues were affecting them and gathered information.
- More than 100 stop-searches of vehicles and people.
- Several injunctions and evictions of local people suspected to be working with county line drug gangs have either taken place or are in progress.
- A number of drug driving arrests.
- Vehicles seized.
- Weapons seized.
Detective Inspector Matt Scott is leading the operation.
He said: “County lines is exploitative drug supply and is devastating to local communities, well beyond those who are directly involved in the local drugs scene.
“The actions of this operation shows we will not stand for it.
“We will do all we can to stop county lines drugs criminals targeting our community as they aim to line their pockets at other people’s misery.”
DI Scott said officers were always alert to any growing problems – and acted swiftly as a result.
He said: “We constantly monitor for emerging problems or trends in crime.
“After receiving intelligence that this was becoming an emerging problem in Workington, we acted swiftly to gather information and act to stamp it out.
“The operation has involved detectives, uniformed neighbourhood officers, PCSOs and partner agencies working together to do what we can to prevent drugs crime.
“We want to send a firm message to those thinking of targeting west Cumbria: If you think west Cumbria is a soft target, think again.”
DI Scott also asked people in west Cumbria to come forward with information to help keep their communities free from drugs crime.
He added: “We also specifically appeal to drug users and their families: Do not succumb to the temptation or pressure to work with or for outside crime groups in this manner.
“Instead, seek assistance from the authorities or ask a friend or family member to do so on your behalf.
“Cumbria Police and our partners will be relentless in targeting and disrupting all those involved in exploitative drug supply and we appeal to the whole community to help us.”
‘’This operation is far from over, this is just the beginning.’’
Cumbria’s Police and Crime Commissioner, Peter McCall, said: “The police response in dealing with county lines drug dealers has been impressive over the last eighteen months; the criminals who deal in misery and dangerous substances need to understand that they will be pursued by the police and they will be prosecuted.
“Drug dealers have absolutely no concern for the victims they create by leading people into addiction and the resulting crime which affects all elements in our communities.
“Worst of all is their aim to draw young people into the drug culture – we must and will continue to do all we can to stop them, they destroy lives with devastating impact across our communities.
“I want drug dealers to know that the police will do all in their power to bring them to justice, but we all need to help, this is a community issue.
“I would say to anyone tempted to use illegal drugs please do not get involved with these criminals – if you feel that you or someone you know is being targeted by drug dealers or you have any information which may help, please contact the police on 101 or 999.”
COUNTY LINES – WHAT IS IT?
- It describes a type of gang and organised crime network.
- They traffic drugs using dedicated mobile phone lines.
- In this set-up, drug users ring a number to place orders – and local street dealers deliver.
- The gangs may exploit children and vulnerable adults.
- They use them to move and store drugs and cash.
- Exploited children may be forced to travel across “county lines”.
- Gang members may use intimidation, violence, coercion and weapons.
COUNTY LINES GANGS ARE EXPLOITING CHILDREN AND ADULTS – DO YOU KNOW THE SIGNS
- Changes in their behaviour, such as being increasingly aggressive or disruptive.
- Going missing, returning home late, skipping school and staying out all night.
- Being found in other towns, villages and cities.
- Coming home with cuts and bruises – or maybe losing weight and not eating.
- Being found with drugs or unexplained cash.
- Using sexual, drug-related or violent words you wouldn’t expect them to use.
- Being secretive about who they are talking to and where they are going.
- Unexplained bus or train tickets – or hotel cards or keys.
- Unexplained gifts such as clothes and trainers.
IS IT WORTH IT?
A judge won’t take any excuses: Helping county lines drugs gangs could land YOU in jail.
What could put you behind bars?
- Driving drug dealers around.
- Storing cash.
- Putting dealers up in your home.
- Giving dealers details of users.
- Showing new drug dealers around town.
- Storing drugs.
- Topping up payment on mobile phones for drug lines.
KNOW SOMETHING ABOUT COUNTY LINES GANGS? WHAT YOU SHOULD DO
Phone police on 101 – or contact Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111