More than 50 people arrested in crackdown on county lines drugs gangs
More than 50 people were arrested in a week-long police operation to remove heroine and crack cocaine dealers from the streets.
The clampdown on county drugs lines saw officers execute search warrants, gather intelligence and arrest people already serving prison sentences on new evidence.
Across the North West, 57 arrests were made, including three in Greater Manchester, six in Lancashire and 19 in Merseyside.
Police also seized approximately £13,100 in cash, five weapons and significant amounts of class A drugs.
The operation, which was co-ordinated by the North West Regional Organised Crime Unit (ROCU), involved officers from six forces, along with the regional disruption team, the National Crime Agency, and other partner agencies.
County lines is when criminal gangs from big cities across the UK use violence and intimidation to expand their drug network within their region and into suburban areas, such as market and coastal towns across the country.
They exploit young people and vulnerable adults to move and sell the drugs and "cuckoo" the homes of vulnerable or drug-addicted people, taking them over and using their property as a drugs base.
The gangs use a single mobile phone line to communicate with drugs users, often making up to £5,000 per day. There are estimated to be more than 2,000 active lines in operation across the UK.
Regional activity during the week of action included visits to vulnerable people, including those at risk of cuckooing, as well as officer engagement with commercial accommodation providers and private hire drivers, who may come into contact with offenders or those being exploited by county lines groups.
Det Insp Anne Rannard, from the North West ROCU, said: “This week-long intensification has seen the North West ROCU working together with the six local police forces, specialist units and our partner agencies to conduct significant disruption to criminals involved in county lines activity.
“It’s been a busy week and we’ve had success disrupting criminal activity, but our work to tackle county lines is very much ongoing. We will arrest and charge those dealing drugs but we will also look to safeguard the young and vulnerable who may be pressured into this type of activity.”
Det Ch Insp Steve Reardon said: “The issue of county lines is one that we as a force work to tackle day in day out and this week of action has re-enforced to those involved in this type of criminality that we will take you off our streets.
“Vulnerable people are being coerced, groomed and threatened by violence to take part in criminal activity across the North West and further afield. Many of these people feel that they have no choice and struggle to find a way to escape from the hurt and harm that they are enduring on a daily basis.
“We use a range of tactics to put a stop to this type of crime and target those people we believe are exploiting vulnerable people to profit from the misery of others."