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County lines gangs: 700 arrested and £400,000 worth of drugs found

Forty-one referrals were made to the National Referral Mechanism, which identifies potential victims of human trafficking, during the operation.

National Crime Agency officers (NCA/PA)
National Crime Agency officers (NCA/PA)

By Alexander Britton, PA

More than 700 people have been arrested and £400,000 worth of drugs confiscated during a UK-wide operation against so-called county lines gangs, police said.

The National Crime Agency said 12 guns were among 169 weapons seized and 49 “deal lines” were disrupted.

Forty-one referrals were made to the National Referral Mechanism, which identifies potential victims of human trafficking, during the operation between October 7 and 13.

Police said they were “dismantling these criminal networks piece by piece”.

The operation was co-ordinated by the Home Office-funded National County Lines Co-ordination Centre (NCLCC), set up to target gangs exploiting children to sell drugs through so-called county lines.

The term refers to the mobile phone lines dedicated to taking orders from drug users, which are operated by criminals from big cities who have expanded into smaller towns.

Young and vulnerable people are often used to act as drug runners or have their homes taken over, or “cuckooed”, to be used as drug dens.

The latest operation was the fourth carried out by the NCLCC following similar “intensification weeks” in October 2018 and in January and May this year.

The NCA said 652 men and 91 women were arrested, and 655 cuckooed addresses were visited.

Weapons including swords, machetes and a crossbow were also seized.

Duncan Ball, the National Police Chiefs’ Council lead for County Lines, said: “We will not treat the criminals who run these lines just as drug dealers.

“We will work tirelessly to prosecute them for these offences but also, where we have the evidence, we will seek to prosecute them for child trafficking under modern slavery laws to reflect the devastating nature of their exploitation of young and vulnerable people.

PA

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