County Lines drug dealing is the name given to drug dealing where organised criminal groups (OCGs) use phone lines to move and supply drugs, usually from cities into smaller towns and rural areas.
This type of drug dealing exploits children and vulnerable adults who may have mental health or addiction problems. Generally, these people are exploited by OCGs to supply and run drugs, and are often forced into this activity through intimidation and violence. It’s a very harmful criminal business model which effects many in the Thames Valley.
Nationally organised crime is estimated to cost the UK economy over 37 billion pounds a year and has a significant impact on communities in the Thames Valley.
The week-long activity saw officers from the Thames Valley carrying out warrants, making arrests and other activity to disrupt County Lines drug dealers.
This led to 81 arrests of people who are connected to County Lines drugs, 17 warrants were executed, 129 searches were carried out, and officers took over 626 wraps of cocaine, heroin and cannabis off the streets of the Thames Valley.
Additionally officers seized over £42,000 pounds worth of cash and also seized 85 phones linked to County Line drug dealing.
We also identified 29 vulnerable people and engaged with 95 people who were vulnerable, and our officers also carried out 103 school visits to give young people and teachers the information they need to spot the signs that someone is being groomed by an OCG.
We also intervened in 136 addresses where known “Cuckooing” has taken place. Cuckooing is where OCGs target the address of a vulnerable adult, taking over the property that the adult is living in and forcing them to sell drugs out of their home.
Detective Chief Superintendent Richard List, said: “This has been a hugely successful week for Thames Valley Police working with the National Crime Agency to tackle County Lines drug dealing.
“Thames Valley Police sees tackling OCGs and county lines as an absolute priority and we are determined to continue to work closely with our partners including Local Authorities, Schools, Health Professionals and charities, to safeguard children and vulnerable adults.
“I see the fact that we have safeguarded a number of adults and children from being exploited through violence, fear and intimidation by drug dealers this week as a real success.
“We will continue to act every single day to stop those who seek to damage our communities through this extremely harmful criminal activity.
“It is important for us all to be familiar with the signs that someone might be the victim of drugs exploitation as only with the public’s help can we stop this.
“If you think someone shows sign of mistreatment, or a child seems to travelling long distances or is unfamiliar with the area they are in, then you can report your suspicions to Thames Valley Police on 101 or via our website.
“Engagement with the public is vital as well and we will continue to work together with our communities and partners so that we can protect vulnerable people, bring offenders to justice and make the Thames Valley a safer place.”
Thames Valley Police has also worked alongside our regional colleagues in the South East Regional Organised Crime Unit.
Detective Inspector Lee Newman, County Lines regional co-ordinator for the South East Regional Organised Crime Unit, said: “We’ve provided support to forces with a range of specialist skills and co-ordinated activity to ensure we work together to identify and disrupt serious offenders causing the most harm in our communities.
“County Lines drug dealing has a significant impact upon communities and involves the exploitation of some of the most vulnerable people in society, including children.