Fifteen people were arrested in Cumbria as forces across the country targeted county lines crime during a week-long national focus on the issue.
Officers in the county stepped up their response to tackling the threat from drug gangs, protecting those potentially being exploited and enhancing already active investigations.
County lines is the name given to a drug dealing model which involves criminals using dedicated mobile phone lines to facilitate the supply of class A drugs, normally between a major city and another county.
Offenders exploit young people and vulnerable adults to move and sell the drugs and sometimes ‘cuckoo’ the homes of vulnerable or drug-addicted people, taking them over and using their property as a drugs base.
It is the catalyst for a range of crime including modern slavery, violence and anti-social behaviour.
Cumbrian officers focused on disrupting the activities of those suspected to be involved in county lines crime through a number of policing tactics.
Results and action from the week, running from September 14 to 20, included:
• Two people arrested on the M6 on suspicion of money laundering;
• Two arrests of people in Carlisle, on suspicion of possession of drugs;
• Five arresting Barrow on suspicion of offences including possession of drugs, possessing an offensive weapon and being concerned in the supply of drugs;
• Four more arrests made in Barrow on suspicion of being concerned in the supply of drugs;
Police also carried out search warrants at properties; made 35 stop-searches in a joint operation with Merseyside Police; took safeguarding action over a number of vulnerable people while neighbourhood police teams were involved in raising awareness and carrying out leaflet drops at places such as hotels and GP surgeries.
Detective Inspector Hayley Wilkinson said: “We’re committed to dismantling these criminal networks and to protecting the young and vulnerable people who are exploited by gangs and are subject to violence, fear and intimidation.
“County lines is exploitative drug supply and is devastating to local communities, well beyond those who are directly involved in the local drugs scene.
“We will do all we can to stop county lines drugs criminals targeting our communities as they aim to line their pockets at other people’s misery.
“Working closely with our external partners and partners in the police and regional organised crime units is vital in our fight against drug trafficking and county lines.
“Work carried out during the week was a good example to people involved in this criminality how we work together with other police forces and at a regional level to tackle this issue.”
DI Wilkinson added: “While law enforcement has made significant progress, this is not an issue we can tackle alone.
“Local agencies, charities, partners, schools, parents all need to help us protect the most vulnerable in our communities.”
Cumbria’s Police and Crime Commissioner, Peter McCall, said: “It’s good to see what Cumbria Constabulary have achieved during this week of action but the fight against county lines is a continuous operation.
“These criminals arrive in our towns and villages and target our most vulnerable young people with the false promise of monetary possessions and an extravagant lifestyle and it is our duty as a community to keep an eye out for any suspicious activity going on in our area.
“No one wants to see a young person being taken advantage of and subsequently arrested and charged for drug possession or the selling of drugs.”
Anyone who notices suspicious activity or has information about county lines drug dealing can speak to police on 101 or call 999 in an emergency.