• Mark Sandbach

Cheshire County lines targeted

Criminals linked to county lines have been targeted during a week of action in Cheshire. The seven-day operation highlighted the work that officers are doing every day to stop criminals in their tracks and to rid the county of illegal drugs.

From the Local Policing Units and Roads & Crime Unit to the Serious and Organised Crime Unit and intelligence teams – everyone is committed to working together to make Cheshire a no-go area for criminals.

The week of action, which took place from Monday 14 May, was part of a national focus on county lines drug activity co-ordinated by the National Crime Agency (NCA) and the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC).

A county line is operated by an organised crime group (OCG) who use a mobile phone, known as a line or a graft to extend their criminal activity business into new locations – usually from a city into rural locations.

During the week officers in Cheshire arrested 10 men and 4 women on suspicion of drug offences and executed a number of warrants which resulted in heroin, cannabis and cocaine being seized.

At least 28 people who were identified as victims of cuckooing were visited by police and provided with specialist support and advice. Cuckooing is a term used to describe gangs who take over a vulnerable person’s home to use as a drugs den. Officers also engaged with 26 vulnerable adults and children who could have been targeted or exploited by organised crime gangs.

Crewe, Macclesfield, Warrington and Chester Local Policing Units worked with officers from British Transport Police (BTP) to target those using the railway to transfer drugs into the area and to identify anyone who may have been exploited to carry out this activity.

Meanwhile officers from across the county interacted with children at local schools and colleges raising awareness of county lines and the risk of exploitation. Teachers were also advised on how to spot the signs of a pupil at risk of exploitation. There were also cross border operations with neighbouring forces. Chief Superintendent Gareth Lee said: “Targeting those suspected of being involved in serious and organised crime, specifically county lines, is something we do relentlessly on a regular basis. “The week of action enabled officers to go that extra mile by informing the public of what we’re doing and how they too can look out for signs of children and adults who are vulnerable to organised criminals and report it. “Throughout the week we carried out a range of activity including disrupting gangs by making arrests and seizing drugs, but we also had a big focus on identifying and engaging with people whose homes are being taken over by drug dealers. “It is these victims who are at the centre of county lines and can often be forgotten which is why we give talks in schools, speak to residents in our communities and visit businesses to raise awareness.”

John Dwyer, Police and Crime Commissioner for Cheshire, said: “Preventing and protecting Cheshire’s communities from serious and organised crime is a key focus for me and I will make sure it continues to be a priority for the force. “I was pleased to join Chief Constable Mark Roberts during the week of action which demonstrated the work officers do day in day out to protect our communities and vulnerable adults and children from organised crime gangs. “I hope this work has reassured residents that officers out there are keeping you safe and stopping criminals in their tracks – not just for a week, but daily and nightly.”

To learn how to spot the signs of drug activity taking place in your community or children and vulnerable adults being exploited by organised crime groups please visit Cheshire Police county lines page.

To report serious and organised crime please call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111 or Cheshire Police on 101.



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