Home Secretary Priti Patel has backed the police service to step up its fight against county lines drug gangs. The British Transport Police (BTP) and Merseyside Police have made over 100 arrests during intensive operations that have taken place in the past two months. Officers have also made a number of seizures of weapons, phones, drugs and cash. This action was funded by £5 million of Home Office money from £20 million that was previously committed by the Home Secretary to dismantle county lines.
The police continue to carry out surge activity against county lines gangs and, following the success of recent operations, the Home Secretary has committed an additional £5 million funding on top of the original £20 million.
Home Secretary Priti Patel said: “I will not tolerate these abhorrent gangs that are terrorising our towns and exploiting our children. I’m pleased to see such strong results from the police. They have my full backing in this crucial work. We will continue to support their efforts in confronting this threat with 20,000 new officers.”
Merseyside Police chief constable Andy Cooke commented: “In the last two months the concentrated activity of our officers, working together with the BTP and other forces in the UK, has led to the cutting of seven county lines run by organised crime groups. As a result, we’ve arrested 48 people and, more importantly, we have been able to safeguard 21 individuals who were being exploited by these groups.”
Cooke went on to state: “County lines are run off the backs of vulnerable people targeted by ruthless criminals. They use the vulnerable to deal their drugs while they sit back and live off the criminal earnings from the sales of illegal drugs which blight our communities. This initiative, which has been run under the banner of ‘Project Medusa’, hits the criminals hard, but when it comes to the young and vulnerable people who’ve been criminally exploited, we ensure that they’re treated sensitively and with understanding.”
BTP chief constable Paul Crowther observed: “We’re the specialist force for policing the rail network and my officers have great experience in tackling issues which span the nation, such as county lines. We have seen first hand the devastating impact these exploitative gangs have on young people, and we’re determined to disrupt this criminal activity. Since the founding of the County Lines Task Force we have seen excellent results, with 80 gang members being arrested and drugs and other potential lethal weapons being seized.”
Crowther added: “With each arrest comes valuable intelligence on how these corrosive gangs operate, and likewise we can help safeguard exploited children from harm. Thankfully, the rail network continues to be a low crime environment. With this latest round of Home Office funding, we will continue to take decisive action to shut down trafficking networks.”
Intensified efforts to tackle crime
Since it was set up last year, the aforementioned dedicated BTP Task Force has carried out several operations resulting in 80 arrests. Officers have also made 35 drug seizures and seized 11 weapons, cash totalling nearly £20,000 and 78 phones.
For its part, Merseyside Police has made 48 arrests and closed down seven lines, while also seizing drugs and cash worth over £100,000.
Activity has also taken place in two other pilot areas.
The Government will continue to bolster law enforcement to tackle county lines. The National County Lines Co-ordination Centre is ensuring that more intelligence is shared between forces and police are targeting dirty money.
Since it opened over a year ago, it has co-ordinated action which led to over 2,500 arrests and has safeguarded over 3,000 vulnerable people. In addition, money has been invested in new ANPR technology which will enable the police to target cars that are being used in county lines activity as roads are often used to transport offenders, victims, drugs, cash and weapons.