Thames Valley Police make 98 arrests during week of drug busts targeting county lines
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Thames Valley Police has released the results from its week of action disrupting county line drug dealing.
Between 9 to 15 October, police officers arrested 98 people, they searched homes in Oxfordshire, Berkshire, and Buckinghamshire.
During County Lines Intensification Week, officers visited homes where they suspected vulnerable people were being exploited for crime operations.
Thames Valley Police obtained warrants to raid homes all across the policing area to break up Organised Crime Group (OCG) strongholds.
County lines refer to drug dealing where gangs use phones to arrange the movement of contraband from big cities into rural areas.
Police intelligence suggests that OCGs often use children and vulnerable people who may have addiction or mental health issues, to distribute their drugs.
Thames Valley Police says this often involves vulnerable victims being groomed, coerced, and intimidated.
Out of the 90 arrests, 40 people were charged. Thames Valley Police identified 30 people involved in drug crime that needed safeguarding, and believes it has identified 40 homes that were being run by OCGs.
During these searches over 1,200 wraps of cocaine, heroin and crack cocaine were taken by the police, as well as at least 1,100 cannabis plants.
A number of weapons were seized including a baseball bat, machetes and an array of hunting, flick, Rambo and kitchen knives.
Also police officers took £67,000 and 121 mobile phones that they believe were linked to criminal activity.
Thames Valley Police says new information obtained during the raids will help its continued operations.
The police force has also provided residents with signs and symptoms which could help identify a young person:
-Travelling alone, particularly in school hours, late at night or frequently
-Looking lost or in unfamiliar surroundings
-Anxious, frightened, angry or displaying other behaviours that make you worried about them
-In possession of more than one phone
-Carrying lots of cash
Detective Chief Inspector Lee Newman-West of Thames Valley Police, said: “We are working harder than ever to crack down on county lines, which bring misery to communities in the form of drug dealing and violence.
“There is a county lines lead in all 43 police forces, working to identify new ways to crack down on this abhorrent crime. The technical abilities available to us, and knowledge that has been gathered in previous weeks of action, mean county lines are no longer a low risk and high reward enterprise.
“We are dedicated to bringing those responsible for violence and exploitation to justice. We will use all avenues available to us, including increased use of Modern Slavery legislation to target line holders.
“County lines have adapted their approaches after relentless pressure from police forces on their illegal activities by targeting the vulnerable in different areas of the country to run drugs for them. We will continue to adapt our approaches to shut down the lines and target line holders in equal parts as safeguarding victims.”
James Simmonds-Read, national programme manager at The Children’s Society, added: “Criminals groom young people in person or online and use terrifying threats and violence to force them into crimes such as carrying drugs and fraud or exploiting them sexually.”