A number of warrants took place across Buckinghamshire, Berkshire and Oxfordshire, which contributed to the force’s ongoing Stronghold campaign, to work in partnership to tackle serious organised crime and exploitation.
County lines drug dealing is where organised crime groups (OCGs) use phone lines to move and supply drugs, usually from cities into smaller towns and rural areas. This type of offending often exploits children and vulnerable people who may have addiction or mental health issues.
Victims are often exploited by OCGs who groom, coerce and often will use intimidation and violence in order to supply drugs to others.
During this week of action Thames Valley Police has:
Arrested 98 people
Charged more than 40 people
Safeguarded 30 people
Visited 40 addresses that have been taken over by a county line
Seized over 1,200 wraps of cocaine, heroin and crack cocaine
Seized at least 1,100 cannabis plants
A number of weapons seized including a baseball bat, machetes and an array of hunting, flick, Rambo and kitchen knives meaning numerous weapons have been taken off of our streets.
Seized approximately £67,000 in cash
Seized approximately 121 mobile phones
A significant amount of intelligence has also been gathered which will help to inform the force’s continued work to combat county drugs lines in our communities. This is in addition to partnership activity and community engagement including awareness and education sessions, schools visits, Scouts engagement, open space sweeps, community engagement patrols, football club visits, landlord visits, taxi engagement and hotel visits while working jointly with local authorities, BTP, JOU teams, social care, housing and community groups.
Do you know what to look out for?
The signs and symptoms to look out for in vulnerable young people could include:
Travelling alone, particularly in school hours, late at night or frequently
Looking lost or in unfamiliar surroundings
Anxious, frightened, angry or displaying other behaviours that make you worried about them
In possession of more than one phone
Carrying lots of cash
Detective Chief Inspector Lee Newman-West of Thames Valley Police, said: “We are working harder than ever to crack down on county lines, which bring misery to communities in the form of drug dealing and violence.
“There is a county lines lead in all 43 police forces, working to identify new ways to crack down on this abhorrent crime. The technical abilities available to us, and knowledge that has been gathered in previous weeks of action, mean county lines are no longer a low risk and high reward enterprise.
“We are dedicated to bringing those responsible for violence and exploitation to justice. We will use all avenues available to us, including increased use of Modern Slavery legislation to target line holders.
“County lines have adapted their approaches after relentless pressure from police forces on their illegal activities by targeting the vulnerable in different areas of the country to run drugs for them. We will continue to adapt our approaches to shut down the lines and target line holders in equal parts as safeguarding victims.”
James Simmonds-Read, National Programme Manager at The Children’s Society, said:
“Criminals groom young people in person or online and use terrifying threats and violence to force them into crimes such as carrying drugs and fraud or exploiting them sexually.
“This Awareness Week we want to highlight how exploitation can happen to any young person, anywhere, and as the nights draw in, we especially urge people to spot the signs of exploitation in public places after dark.
“Young people can be targeted at fast food outlets, forced to travel on trains and in taxis late at night, and are abused behind closed doors, in hotels and holiday lets.
“Whether you are on a night out, commuting home, staying overnight for a business trip, or working as a driver or in customer service, you could be the one that gets help.
“Call the police on 101 or 999 if there is an immediate risk. If on a train text British Transport Police on 61016. Alternatively, you can contact the NSPCC for advice on 0808 800 5000.”