Police take part national action targeting county lines drug dealers

PUBLISHED: 08:00 29 October 2019 | UPDATED: 17:39 29 October 2019

Police want homeowners to be vigilant.    Picture: MARK ATHERTON

Police want homeowners to be vigilant. Picture: MARK ATHERTON

Archant

Police took part in a week of action to tackle county lines drug dealing across Somerset.

Avon and Somerset Constabulary partnered with local authorities, and other forces to dismantle networks which cross police force borders.

Officers arrested 26 people, including seven in North Somerset for a range of offences such as drugs supply, possession of weapons and theft.

They seized weapons, including a machete, a hammer and a knife, a large amount of suspected class A drugs and approximately £25,000 in cash, as well as two vehicles and 13 mobile phones.

Last week, officers also visited more than 100 properties, including six in North Somerset, with support workers which were thought to have either previously been cuckooed or were believed to be at risk of being cuckooed in the future. Cuckooing is where drug dealers take over a vulnerable person's home to carry out crimes.

Officers also sent hundreds of text messages to suspected drug users and deal lines believed to be operating in the area. The messages directed 250 drug users to support agencies, while making dealers aware they knew what they are using the number for.

Detective Chief Inspector Kerry Paterson said: "Last week's operation shows how much can be achieved when different police forces work in partnership across borders as well as alongside local authorities who have an interest in keeping vulnerable people safe.

"These drugs gangs are ruthless and don't care who they exploit or hurt, they make false promises to vulnerable people about the money, status and safety that working for them will provide.

"Increasingly, the young people we come into contact with through our operations are treated as victims and where possible we utilise modern slavery legislation as well as drugs laws to prosecute those at the top of the chains."

Police and crime commissioner Sue Mountstevens said: "We need to be doing everything we can to disrupt county lines and stop those who want to exploit the most vulnerable for their own benefit.

"We need to ensure that everyone recognises the signs of drug activity and exploitation of vulnerable people and work together to stop this crime destroying people's lives."

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