Nineteen arrests were made and two people safeguarded during a busy week of action for officers dealing with ‘County Lines’ activity in Staffordshire.
Officers arrested 15 men and one woman, as well as three boys, on suspicion of drugs offences.
A total of 438 deals of heroin and crack cocaine were seized during searches, along with 146 deals of cocaine and 50 cannabis plants and £3,000 in cash. Weapons including two machetes, a crossbow, a sword, four knives and four lock-knives were confiscated and will be destroyed.
Forces and agencies across England and Wales worked together from May 17 to 23 in an intensification week targeting this activity, which is where groups of young men from an urban area move into smaller towns to distribute crack cocaine or heroin. The groups use vulnerable young people, often aged 14 to 24, to traffic the drugs after deals are agreed remotely through a mobile or ‘line.’ The young people involved may be coerced into this activity through debt, drugs use, grooming, threats or violence. Typical risk factors for those involved are mental health problems, drug use, debt, being known to the care system, and being prone to missing episodes.
The arrests included significant drug seizures in Tamworth, Burton-on-Trent and Cannock. An 18-year-old man from Birmingham was arrested in Tamworth following the discovery of 108 deals of heroin and crack cocaine in a search. A 20-year-old man was arrested as he got off the train from Walsall to Cannock and 50 deals of heroin and crack were found in his socks. A 17-year-old boy from Burton was found with 80 deals of heroin and crack in the town’s Eaton Park.
Two vulnerable individuals were identified as officers attended 20 properties where ‘cuckooing’ activity was suspected. This is where premises, such as houses or flats, are acquired through coercion and taken over by groups for criminal activity. As part of the week’s activity officers have been into schools and worked closely with youth services to advise and educate about the risks of County Lines.
Detective Chief Inspector Rob Taylor, of Staffordshire Police, said: “This has been a busy week for officers who have been working hard to tackle this challenge by disrupting those who would deal drugs in our communities. “Although we are always targeting County Lines activity, this week of focus mainly led to arrests of individuals travelling into the south of the county from the West Midlands and Derby. “We’ve had success disrupting criminal activity and confiscating drugs and weapons, but of course our work continues. We will arrest and charge those dealing drugs but it’s important to remember that we will also look to safeguard the young and vulnerable who may be pressured into this type of activity. It’s important to understand that where we would once have treated some of those involved as offenders they may be vulnerable and at risk.”