A UK-WIDE crackdown on ‘county lines’ drugs gangs has resulted in 32 arrests in South Wales, as well as thousands of pounds worth of drugs and cash seized.
Last week police forces – including Gwent Police, South Wales Police, Dyfed Powys Police and British Transport Police – worked with Tarian, the Regional Organised Crime Unit for southern Wales, in a crackdown on suspected ‘county lines’ activity.
County lines involves drug dealers in urban areas selling to customers in more rural areas via dedicated phone lines. They are notorious for exploiting children to work as couriers and forcing vulnerable people to let them use their homes to conceal or deal drugs, as portrayed in BBC drama Line Of Duty.
The aim of the week was to ensure that all possible opportunities to disrupt criminals and safeguard vulnerable people were maximised.
Results in South Wales throughout the week include:
- 32 arrests.
- Four drugs lines taken out.
- More than £179,000 worth of drugs seized, including 1.5kg of heroin.
- More than £23,000 in cash seized.
- A number of people vulnerable to exploitation were visited, spoken to and signposted to support.
As part of this national crackdown throughout the UK there were 1,100 arrests made, 33 guns and 219 knives seized, and 80 drug dealing phone lines identified.
Police officers made use of a range of resources including automatic number plate recognition (ANPR), knife sweeps, search warrants, covert officers and police dogs.
Detective Inspector for Tarian, Richard Weber, said: “I’m really pleased with the results of this intensification week, but the work doesn’t end here.
“ We will continue to work with the police forces in southern Wales and our partners to make our regions safer from the fight against organised crime, the supply of Class A drugs, and the threat of serious violence.
“County lines intensification weeks intend to disrupt organised crime gangs whose intentions inflict life-long mental and physical harm on vulnerable adults and young people. We aim to make southern Wales a hostile environment for these gangs and bring criminals to justice.”
South Wales Police Detective Inspector, Marc Gardner, added: “The commitment of our teams to tackle this kind of organised criminality is absolutely critical in bringing those responsible to justice and protecting our communities.
“I’d like to thank our partners for the work they do alongside us. A multi-agency approach allows us to be as wide-ranging as possible in bringing county lines perpetrators to justice.
“At South Wales Police and with Tarian, we will always be relentless in our efforts to target these gangs and make our region hostile for them. We will pursue them to all corners of Britain to bring them to justice.”
There are currently thought to be around 600 county lines gangs operating in the UK, down from around 2,000 two years ago.
National Police Chiefs’ Council lead for county lines Deputy Assistant Commissioner Graham McNulty said: “The police response to county lines has increased substantially over the past 18 months. We have been relentless in pursuing those behind the line whilst doing everything possible to rescue those being exploited.
“Intensification weeks like this allow us to dedicate a burst of activity and resources nationally, highlighting to the public our absolute determination to rid communities of this abhorrent crime.
“We will use all the powers available to us to tackle every element of the county line network because we know the effect violence and crimes associated with county lines can have in our communities.
“It is vital that everyone looks out for the signs of exploitation.
“This may be a child with unexplained cash, a new expensive phone or clothing, suddenly going missing, in possession of rail tickets or taxi receipts, a change in behaviour and new people suddenly appearing at a house or flat.”
Speaking to Sky News on Thursday, Mr McNulty added officers had had to adapt to the changing methods of the gangs.
He said: “Coaches haven’t been running, trains have been a lot quieter, and we’ve seen some movement into cars for dealing lines and taking drugs across the country and we’ve responded to that.
“I think the results from this week show we’ve been successful in reducing county lines (but) it is an ongoing battle.”
The National Crime Agency, which was also involved in the week of action, saw operations that led to the seizure of 1,102lb (500kg) of cocaine from a shipping container at London Gateway, as well as the discovery of 37.5lb (17kg) of heroin after a Polish driver was stopped at Coquelles in France.
Another HGV driver was also charged with allegedly smuggling 236lb (107kg) of cocaine – worth £8.5 million – to the UK on a ferry from Holland.
National Crime Agency director of investigations Nikki Holland said the week of action came after “a very busy year” tackling the smuggling of Class A drugs.
She added: “It is a high priority for the NCA to build on the successes we have had in source countries and along the drugs supply routes, so that organised crime groups land fewer drugs in our towns and cities and prevent them being pushed further afield through county lines groups.”