Police have vowed to be relentless in pursuing drug dealers as they revealed they closed 172 county borders in a week and arrested hundreds of people suspected of being involved in the illegal activities.
The seven-day focus on such crimes has seen forces from across the UK close more county borders than ever before, the Council of National Police Chiefs has said.
A so-called intensification week from October 3-9 resulted in 1,360 people being arrested – and 321 guns, Class A and Class B drugs worth more than £2.7million and about £987,562 in cash seized.
County lines — the term used to describe the use of cellphones to deliver drugs from major cities to towns and rural areas — involve the responsible “line owners” and “runners,” who are often vulnerable people in charge of the delivery are used The drugs.
Police said such a system of drug distribution leads to severe violence and exploitation.
NPCC Assistant Deputy Commissioner Graham McNulty said: “In the last week of intensification, police forces from across the UK have shut down more criminal-trafficked county borders than ever before.
“Our message is clear to anyone operating County Lines across the country; We will pursue you relentlessly, we will close your county borders, we will take drugs off our streets and we will rescue those you exploit.
“There is nowhere for these violent county line criminals to hide and our latest intensification week figures show that police have made significant progress on these criminal networks, with 172 county lines shutting down during the week.
“Not only that, we continued to track line keepers and arrested over 1,300 criminals involved in county lines and removed extremely dangerous weapons, including 43 firearms, from the streets.”
Mr McNulty said shutting down active lines and catching the criminals behind them was a priority, but added that protecting the vulnerable was also important.
He said: “We have seen 1,255 vulnerable adults and children protected from these violent criminals at county lines.
“They have been hired by police officers who work closely with relevant services, agencies and charities and have been referred to the partner agency most relevant to them so that they can now look to a brighter future free of crime and violence.”
Examples of work across the UK included officers in Middlesbrough arresting three people after a number of missing children were found at an address.
The NPCC said the children were “protected” and the suspects were charged with offenses of modern slavery and conspiracy to supply Class A drugs.
Cambridgeshire Constabulary carried out 15 raids in Cambridgeshire, Peterborough, Bedfordshire and London and seized over £508,000 worth of drugs, over £20,000 in cash and assets including vehicles, jewelery and clothing. Weapons, including thrusting daggers and knives, were also confiscated.
The Metropolitan Police seized 7kg worth of cocaine found in DJ equipment, the NPCC added.
James Simmonds-Read, national manager of the Children’s Society Prevention Program, welcomed the arrests of people who “cynically groom young people and force them to transport drugs across county lines.”
He said: “All too often, children across the country are not identified as being exploited and are not offered support, and our Look Closer campaign is working closely with police and other professionals to change that.
“Look Closer also highlights how the public can help police and other professionals by looking for signs of child nurturing and exploitation in the community and online and by reporting concerns.”
Home Secretary Suella Braverman said: “County lines bring violence and misery to communities across the country and it is important that we stamp them out.
“I welcome these recent operational achievements and we continue to support these impressive operations by providing up to £145m over the next three years through our County Lines programme.
“I also want victims of exploitation to know there is a way out and a better future, which is why we are investing up to £5million to support young people and their families caught up in these harmful rackets.”