Officers from across the North East have made arrests as part of an operation to target drug dealing which forms part of an emerging crime type known as ‘county lines’.
Six people were arrested after drug warrants were executed across the force areas of Northumbria, Cleveland and Durham.
The joint activity last Tuesday (October 9) carried out by the North East Regional Special Operations Unit (NERSOU) with the support of all three forces formed part of a national week of intensification against ‘county lines’. This is where criminal networks expand their operations from urban areas to more rural locations and smaller towns.
Drug dealers will typically use a single phone line to facilitate the supply of Class A drugs to customers, often resorting to violence and intimidation to protect the line.
Often ‘county lines’ will involve the exploitation of vulnerable people, including children and those with mental health or addiction problems, at all points of drug supply routes.
In Cleveland, a man and woman – both aged 33 – were arrested on suspicion of possession of a Class A drug. They have since been released under investigation. A 36-year-old-man was also arrested on suspicion of possession of cannabis. He has since been cautioned.
Officers attended properties in areas of Darlington where they arrested two men - aged 20 and 50 - on suspicion of possession of a controlled drug. The 20-year-old man was released under investigation and the 50-year-old man was cautioned. A 19-year-old man was also arrested on suspicion of money laundering. He has since been released under investigation.
In Northumbria, there were two warrants executed but no arrests made.
Detective Chief Superintendent Alastair Simpson, head of NERSOU, said:
“While crime associated with county lines has not had a significant impact on our area, this is recognised as a national issue.
“We are committed to working with national partners and other police forces to improve the intelligence picture around such offences and as our recent activity shows we will take swift and robust action on any information we have.
“This type of criminal activity often relies on exploiting the most vulnerable and at risk people in our communities, who feel forced to become involved in gang activity and drug supply.
“We want to send a clear message to those involved in county lines criminality that this is totally unacceptable and will not be tolerated here in the North East.
“Working together through NERSOU and with our partners, we will continue to improve our intelligence picture and take swift and robust action against suspects.”
Members of the public are also encouraged to get in touch with any intelligence which could help police.
If somebody in the community shows signs of mistreatment, or a child seems to be travelling long distances or is unfamiliar with their whereabouts, you can report information to local police on 101 or British Transport Police if on the transport network.
This is the first intensification week to be coordinated by the new National County Lines Coordination Centre (NCLCC), which was fully established under joint NCA and NPPC leadership in September 2018 as part of the Home Office’s Serious Violence Strategy.