Drug networks targeted and children protected in County Lines offensive
We’ve targeted organised crime gangs as part of a national week of action against ‘County Lines’ drugs networks.
Almost 40 warrants were executed across the force area last week at addresses suspected of being linked to cross-border drugs supply chains.
It resulted in the arrest of 64 people – 11 of whom have already been charged with offences – plus the seizure of 225 wraps of cocaine and heroin, more than 1,000 cannabis plants, plus weapons including imitation handguns.
We also ran ANPR operations on the roads network looking for people moving drugs by road and targeted taxi operations suspected of being used by drug runners, while also raising awareness with control rooms to report any suspicious fares.
Officers teamed up with British Transport Police colleagues on the lookout for offenders at train stations and other transport hubs.
That included a two-day operation in South Wales following recent incidents of missing West Midlands children being found in suspicious circumstances in Swansea – and fears they were being exploited to run drugs.
Our lead officer for County Lines, Superintendent Rich Agar, said: “County Lines is a really cynical crime. Offenders often groom and exploit children to do the drug running – the dirty, dangerous work – on their behalf. They see vulnerable people as commodities.
“So while we had a real focus on going after suspected offenders, we also invested lots of time and effort reaching children to raise awareness with them of the risks and to show that we’re here to support them.
“We did around 80 inputs at schools and also spoke to teenagers in children’s homes; we need to work collectively to keep vulnerable children safe from the clutches of drugs gangs.”
The action formed part of a County Lines Intensification Week (14-21 Sept) that saw police forces across the UK share intelligence and join forces to tackle drugs networks.
Our intelligence suggests there are currently around 100 County Lines running out of Birmingham across the UK, to places as far afield as Cornwall and Scotland.
Supt Agar added: “We’ve had lots of success in shutting down lines in recent years and convicting the heads of these drugs lines who are now serving many years behind bars.
“It’s crucial we work with police colleagues in neighbouring forces and across the UK – plus other partners – to effectively tackle the scourge of County Lines and that’s exactly what we did last week to great effect.”
The West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner David Jamieson added: “I’m very concerned about young people who may be drawn into involvement in county lines and gangs.
“These youngsters have been made even more vulnerable by COVID-19 and not being closely linked into schooling which makes them much easier targets for the gang leaders.
“I am committed to protecting young vulnerable people who are exploited by county lines and gangs.
“Through the West Midlands Violence Reduction Unit we are working with partners to provide help and support for young people who are at risk of being exploited.”