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COUNTY LINES CRACKDOWN: More than quarter of 1,000 arrested across country were in London

MORE than a quarter of the around 1,000 people arrested during the country's biggest ever crackdown on county lines drug dealing were detained by the Met Police, the force has revealed. Police in London arrested 255 people as part of the crackdown from Monday September 14 to Sunday, September 20.

During the series of raids across the capital 60 weapons were seized, including 40 knives, five firearms, and two machetes, and more than £45,000 cash was seized.

Drugs worth more than £120,000 were seized including £60,000 of prescription medicine, £21,000 of cocaine and £40,000 of heroin.

County lines sees organised drug gangs from cities send runners into far flung coastal and market towns to take over the local drug supply, often with violent confrontations.

In November 2019, a number of pilot operations funded by the Home Office were launched focusing on the three force areas where the most lines originate from.

Two thirds of all lines stem from London with around 15 per cent each from Merseyside and the West Midlands.

Many of the runners used are groomed children, with 14 and 15 year-olds identified over the past week, and vulnerable adults who are also exploited.

Gangs also take over the homes of local drug addicts to use as a base to sell from, a tactic called cuckooing.

During the week 85 vulnerable adults and children were made safe after 24 cuckooed addresses were visited.

There were 11 referrals to a process called the National Referral Mechanism (NRM), which assesses individuals as potential victims of human trafficking/modern slavery.

Throughout the week Met officers closed a total of 23 active county lines phone lines – the highest number of lines ever closed in a week in London.

BUSTED: Cash and other items seized during the raids (Met Police)

A Met Police spokesman said: "But this only forms part of the Met’s activity to tackle county lines.

"In November Home Office funding was used to create a dedicated county lines team which launched 'Operation Orochi'.

"This team has gone on to work in collaboration with 17 other forces to arrest and convict those responsible for running county lines across the UK.

"There are currently 60 live investigations under Operation Orochi."

Since November 2019 the Met has increased operational focus across the entire force and developed its partnership work to tackle specific county lines running from the capital.

This has resulted in the arrest of 345 line holders and associates, 635 charges for a range of offences including drug supply, modern slavery and weapon possession.

As a result of this activity, a total of 194 county lines have been closed.

The spokesman added: "The line holders charged through this activity already have links to violence and drug supply – 64 percent have previous convictions for violence, 65 percent have convictions for carrying weapons, 70 percent have convictions for drug supply and 69 percent are affiliated to a London street gang.

"Officers have also rescued 30 vulnerable people identified through their investigations. These individuals have been brought back to London from other force areas having been exploited into the supply of drugs and provided specialist support.

"The clear link between drug supply, county lines and violence has not only been demonstrated through the results of this intensification week, but also through analysis carried out by the Met and the National County Lines Coordination Centre.

"This identified that 1,900 individuals linked to county lines in London have been charged or cautioned in relation to offences committed within the capital.

WEAPON: Knife found during one of the searches as was the main top image (Met Police)

"More than 1500 people have been charged with approximately 3,000 offences including murder, attempted murder, drug supply and weapon offences."

Detective Superintendent Mike West from the Metropolitan Police Service said: “Since November we have been working hand in glove with forces across the country to identify and arrest those at the centre of drug supply lines.

“Investigating officers at either end of a county line are developing and successfully concluding investigations faster than ever before. Where a county lines investigation may have previously taken months to bring to fruition, we are now closing down lines and arresting their holders in a matter of weeks.”

Deputy Assistant Commissioner Graham McNulty from the Metropolitan Police Service said: “There is a direct link between county lines and violence on the streets of London, as is evident through the lethal weapons we seized over the last week.

"Tackling violence remains our top priority and that’s why our efforts in this area will not diminish, they will continue and increase in the coming weeks.

“We have carried out hundreds of investigations with forces all the way from Scotland down to Devon and Cornwall and in recent months have disrupted some of the most violent county lines across the UK.”


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