TWENTY-EIGHT arrests were made and eight vulnerable people safeguarded during a busy week of action for officers dealing with ‘County Lines’ activity in Staffordshire.
Officers seized almost six thousand pounds in cash, two machetes, a quantity of crack cocaine and 66 cannabis plants.
During the week of activity seven arrests were made in Biddulph and in Cannock, with four arrests in Penkridge and in Tamworth, and three arrests in Lichfield. Two arrests were made in Stoke and one further arrest in Burton. Twenty men, two women and six teenage boys were arrested.
Twelve cuckooed addresses were visited and five vulnerable men, two vulnerable women, and one juvenile were safeguarded.
Forces and agencies across England and Wales worked together from September 14-20 September 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.
Superintendent Jason Nadin, of Staffordshire Police, said:
“This has been another intensive week of activity focusing on protecting the vulnerable in our communities and dealing with offenders.
“We’re working hard to tackle this challenge by disrupting those who would deal drugs in our communities.
“It has been a busy week – with lots of activity and arrests and, most importantly the vulnerable safeguarded – but the work continues and we will arrest and charge those dealing drugs but look to safeguard the young and vulnerable who may be pressured into this type of activity.”
James Simmonds-Read, National Programme Manager at The Children’s Society’s Prevention programme, said:
“Bringing down the criminals who cynically exploit vulnerable children through these county lines operations is crucial.
“But it’s equally important that the children they have groomed, who may have been deeply traumatised by horrific violence, threats, and sexual abuse, are recognised as victims.
“Too often, these young people do not get the support they need, or are seen as having chosen to get involved in crime when they were manipulated and coerced. It is vital these children are protected from abuse rather than prosecuted and professionals must also get better at identifying children who may be at risk of exploitation sooner and offering timely help.
“We want to see the Government define child criminal exploitation in law and adopt a new national strategy to tackle the issue. This strategy should focus upon ending the postcode lottery when it comes to identifying and supporting young people who are exploited, alongside efforts to disrupt the criminals who have groomed them.
“Spotting the signs that a child could be at risk isn’t just a matter for professionals. That’s why we launched our Look Closer campaign alongside the National Police Chiefs Council and British Transport Police during this week of action. We’re urging staff who work in the service sector including in hotels, shops and in public transport to spot the signs a child may be being exploited and to report concerns to the police.”
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