TWENTY-NINE arrests were made and a man jailed for six years during a busy week of action for officers dealing with ‘County Lines’ activity in Staffordshire.
Forces and agencies across England and Wales worked together from Jan 21 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.
During the week of activity in Staffordshire 29 arrests were made with operations taking place in Burton-on-Trent, Tamworth, Lichfield, South Staffs, Newcastle under Lyme and Stoke-on-Trent.
Twelve arrests were made in Stoke-on-Trent, six arrests were made in Burton, five in Tamworth, two in Lichfield, two in South Staffs, two in Newcastle.
Most of those arrested were local or travelled into the area from the West Midlands and Merseyside.
Cash was seized as well as quantities of heroin, crack cocaine and cannabis. Weapons including knives, a samurai sword and a knuckle duster were confiscated.
A vulnerable individual was identified and safeguarded and an example of ‘cuckooing’ identified. This is where premises, such as houses or flats, are acquired through coercion and taken over by groups for criminal activity.
On January 24 Kierell Woollery was jailed for six and a half years for County Lines related drug supply offences at Stoke-on-Trent Crown Court.
Detective Chief Inspector Paul Bentley, of Staffordshire Police, said: “We are seeing this type of activity in Staffordshire and working hard to tackle this challenge by disrupting those who would deal drugs in our communities.
“Often individuals travel into the north of the county from Merseyside or into south and mid-Staffordshire from the West Midlands.
“It has been a busy week and we’ve had success disrupting criminal activity, but of course our work continues. We will arrest and charge those dealing drugs but 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.”