Fifteen county lines drug-dealing networks have been dismantled and disrupted, in a week of intensification to tackle drug related harm and drug related violence in our communities.

Last week, police officers across Hampshire and Isle of Wight arrested 87 criminals and seized £106,000 of drugs and more than 50 offensive weapons as part of a national county line week of intensification.

County lines have adapted their approaches after relentless pressure from police on their illegal activities by targeting the vulnerable in different areas of the country to run drugs for them. But, with the technical abilities available to police, and the knowledge that has been gathered in previous weeks of action, mean county lines are no longer a low risk and high reward enterprise for this organised crime gangs.

The Force-wide policing activity across Hampshire and the Isle of Wight resulted in:

  • 87 people arrested
  • 15 county lines identified and disrupted
  • 13 drug warrants executed
  • 159 mobile phones seized
  • £106,000 drugs seized
  • Over £51K cash seized
  • 200+ stop and searches, 15% of which involved a person aged Under 18.

Tactical County Lines lead for Hampshire and the Isle of Wight Constabulary, Chief Inspector Marcus Kennedy, said:

“County line gangs run despicable, exploitative criminal operations manipulating the most vulnerable to do their dirty work, tearing families and communities apart in the process.

“This intense week of operational and partnership activity has been incredibly successful in disrupting and shutting down county line networks running in our towns and cities.

“We’ve been relentless in the co-ordination of our policing activity targeting these vile criminals who bring misery and violence to our communities. We have executed 13 warrants, made 87 arrests and visited 62 cuckooed addresses in the past week, all related to drug-related harm. Seizing large quantities of drugs, cash and proceeds of their criminality including over fifty thousand in cash.

“County lines exploit children and vulnerable people and safeguarding has been at the heart of our response, with 58 vulnerable people including two children aged under 18, being referred to support services via the National Referral Mechanism. Officers also provided engagement within schools and work with partners such as the Childrens Society on the #LookCloser exploitation campaign.”

“It’s a criminal business model, evidenced by the variety and amount of drug types seized this week, but they are equally strongly associated with serious violence.

“During the operations, we have recovered over 50 offensive weapons, including firearms, zombie knives, Tasers, machetes and ammunition. Reassuringly, we have taken them out of the hands of criminals intend on creating fear, harm and violence. There is no place for offensive weapons in our society – in public nor in private, will we deal robustly with police action against these offenders.

“We cannot and will not stop wiping them out with our relentless pursuit in ridding these violent criminals from our streets, and reducing the fear and violence they bring with to other associated crime in our neighbours.

“We are dedicated to bringing those responsible for violence and exploitation to justice and will use all avenues available to us, including increased use of Modern Slavery legislation to target line holders.”

Some of the successes from across the Force:

  • £30,000 of cash, large quantities of suspected Class A and B drugs, multiple phones and proceeds of crime were seized during a warrant in Gosport. A man and woman were arrested.
  • Two firearms, knives and a large quantity of Class A drugs and phones were seized at a warrant in Andover at the start of the week, with two suspects arrested.
  • In Southampton, officers visited a vulnerable person’s home as part of their drug related harm safeguarding activity. During the visit one man was arrested, weapons and phones seized. An adult and child inside the cuckooed address safeguarded.
  • A warrant in Portsmouth seized Class A and B drugs, weapons, cash and phones.
  • Basingstoke officers seized £3,000 in cash, a machete and quantities of Class A drugs during a pre-planned warrant in Basingstoke. One arrest was made.
  • Officers stopped a vehicle and carried out a stop search on a vehicle on the Isle of Wight. One male was arrested for Possession with intent to supply. Two offensive weapons were also seized, a sword and extendable baton.

James Simmonds-Read, National Programme Manager at The Children’s Society, said:

“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.

“This Awareness Week we want to highlight how exploitation can happen to any young person, anywhere, and as the nights draw in, we especially urge people to spot the signs of exploitation in public places after dark.

“Young people can be targeted at fast food outlets, forced to travel on trains and in taxis late at night, and are abused behind closed doors, in hotels and holiday lets.

“Whether you are on a night out, commuting home, staying overnight for a business trip, or working as a driver or in customer service, you could be the one that gets help.

“Call the police on 101 or 999 if there is an immediate risk. If on a train text British Transport Police on 61016. Alternatively, you can contact the NSPCC for advice on 0808 800 5000.