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More arrests than ever before in successful county lines intensification

We have arrested more people than ever before as part of our most recent crackdown on county lines criminality across Staffordshire.

From 4 to 11 March, officers carried out a series of enforcement operations to tighten the grip on those exploiting vulnerable people and coercing them into a life of crime across the county.

By the end of the week, we arrested 34 suspects, charged 15 and safeguarded 10 vulnerable people from organised criminals.

The organised crime groups (OCG) responsible for county lines criminality will often set up drug ‘lines’ using burner phones to arrange drug deals. They will then look to exploit vulnerable people and use them as ‘runners’ to do their dirty work and take the drugs from one place to another.

They’ll use a variety of tactics to coerce people into working for them and to make sure they don’t tell anyone, including grooming, violence and intimidation.

In Staffordshire, we took down six sophisticated drug lines as part of the week-long intensification, as well as seizing more than £17,000-worth of crack, heroin and cocaine, 1,185 cannabis plants and £2,460 in cash.

A knuckleduster, two machetes, two zombie knives and two lock knives were also seized.

OCGs involved in county lines activity often prey on the vulnerable by taking over their homes and forcing them to cover up the crimes they are committing. Commonly referred to as ‘cuckooing’, they will exploit these people and use their homes as a way of hiding their base of operations.

Alongside our enforcement, we visited 58 separate addresses that were linked to potential cuckooing in Staffordshire and spoke with those involved about the options they have to seek support. 

Educational visits to schools, care homes, shops and high-footfall areas were also carried out in each of our ten local policing areas. Officers were able to speak to hundreds of people who might be at risk of exploitation, including young people and those who live alone, and also help to raise awareness in local communities on signs that someone might be a victim of criminal exploitation and how we can help them.

Detective Superintendent Nicki Addison, from our Major and Organised Crime Department, said: “Tackling organised crime is something which needs to happen as a collective, not just as a police force. We need people to tell us if they’ve seen something suspicious or they think someone is being coerced into crime so we can work with our partners to safeguard the vulnerable and go after those responsible.

“I want to reiterate that taking down organised criminals is something we work on every single day of the year. We’ve put a massive amount of work into gathering intelligence, searching the addresses you’re concerned about and robustly targeting those involved across the intensification week.

“The dedicated disruption teams and proactive officers that are looking out for our most vulnerable each and every day and committed to building on these successes and continuing to take down organised criminals across Staffordshire.

“I’d like to thank the local people and businesses who have helped us to build a robust intelligence picture and act on important information that has led to the most arrests in a county lines intensification week to date. 

“I hope that shows how vital it is that people continue to tell us about their concerns. Only by working together can we continue to help those who need it most and put a stop to those destroying people’s lives for profit.”

Staffordshire Commissioner for Police, Fire & Rescue and Crime Ben Adams is Chair of the Violence Reduction Alliance. He said: “These organised criminal gangs harm our communities, so I welcome Staffordshire Police’s focus on tackling county lines activity through targeted intensification weeks. 

“These operations not only protect vulnerable young people from exploitation, but by removing drugs from our streets, they also help to tackle a range of related criminality, including knife crime and other serious violence, and acquisitive crimes to fund addiction.”


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