Drug-busting detectives have carried out continued targeted strikes in Liverpool and Scotland under Operation Sentinel to bring down a sophisticated County Lines network.
Last week, officers from Northumbria Police teamed up with partners to arrest 14 people as part of a major offensive in Berwick and Merseyside.
Today, (Wednesday), that net widened as officers travelled to Liverpool once again to maintain the momentum and continue their robust action against cross-border crime.
Officers also worked alongside Police Scotland to safeguard victims and take further action against suspected County Lines related criminals across the Scottish border in Eyemouth.
The unrelenting partnership working resulted in the arrest of nine people across the three force areas.
As part of the early morning raids officers also seized a large quantity of cannabis estimated at over £3,000 street value and over a kilogram of suspected cocaine which has an estimated street value of over £40,000.
One of the suspects was arrested in Berwick, a man, aged 40, on suspicion of drugs related offences.
Detective Chief Inspector Jonathan Bensley, one of the leading officers from Northumbria Police, said: “These types of crimes cannot be tackled successfully without the outstanding partnership work that we all work so hard to achieve.
“The unified holistic approach we take in tandem helps secure strong evidence based investigations and swift convictions.”
Officers have been working with partner forces as well as National County Lines Co-ordination Centre and North East Regional Special Operations Unit (NERSOU) to help tackle the issue, as well as with local authorities and services that help safeguard those identified as at risk.
In Liverpool, officers from both Merseyside and Northumbria Police carried out a number of searches which resulted in the arrest of three men, 22, 28 and 56, and two women, 28 and 19, all on suspicion of drugs related offences.
Detective Chief Inspector Steve Reardon, from Merseyside Police, said: “The success of this morning’s operation with the North East Regional Special Operations Unit (NERSOU) and Northumbria Police illustrates the value of working in partnership to tackle County Lines.
"County Lines groups, by definition, cross borders in order to profit from exploiting vulnerable people. We are determined to work with other forces and authorities to stop them in their tracks, and make sure county borders are no obstacle to the pursuit of justice.”
Northumbria Police and Crime Commissioner, Kim McGuinness, said: “This continued operation shows a commitment to keeping the people of Northumbria safe and helping those who are stuck in difficult situations to get out of them.
“County Lines is something we’re working hard to prevent – this operation is one of many initiatives we have in place to tackle drugs gangs and protect the vulnerable people who are seen as easy targets for getting swept up in this criminal activity. We want to be doing everything we can to stop this.
“The success of tackling issues like this relies on strong, joined up working between forces, which has been evident here. It’s crucial that we come together with partners, with our communities, and try to stem this issue now.”
As part of the police operation a further three suspects, two men, 34 and 45, and a woman, 29, were also arrested in Scotland on suspicion of drugs related offences.
DCI Bensley added: “We will continue working with our partners across the country to protect the most vulnerable members of society and take the offenders who exploit them off our streets.”
If you have suspicions or concerns around County Lines then you can report information to local police on 101 or via the British Transport Police if on the transport network.