POLICE have made 50 arrests as part of a week of action against county lines drug dealing.

West Mercia Police confirmed the arrests and a series of warrants which were carried out across Shropshire, Herefordshire and Worcestershire on Friday (March 18) following a national co-ordinated week of action which concluded on Sunday (March 13).

They also seized drugs with an estimated street value of more than £62,000, as well as 20 weapons such as air-weapons, knives, a cross bow, baseball bats and swords and nine vehicles also confiscated along with 40 mobile phones.

More than £16,000 in cash was also recovered by police during the week of intelligence led intensified activity.

Assistant Chief Constable Richard Cooper said: “The targeted activity carried out last week by our officers to tackle county lines gangs demonstrates how committed we are to disrupt and dismantle drugs supply, and protect children and young people and those would could be vulnerable to exploitation in our communities.

“With 50 arrests made and several warrants executed we have significantly disrupted county lines activity right across Herefordshire, Shropshire and Worcestershire – and importantly, we have safeguarded a number of vulnerable people.

“It is vital to remember that operations such as these during this national week of intensification are very much ‘business as usual’ for our teams, and demonstrates the great work done by officers and staff throughout the year. The intelligence gathering and preparation that has goes into making arrests and disrupting county lines have been, in some cases, weeks and months in the making.

County lines sees drugs transported from predominately larger urban areas to smaller rural towns, with the ‘line’ referring to the mobile number used to order the drugs.

Gangs involved in county lines may challenge an existing group from the local area or another county lines ‘line’ in order to take over the local market.

County lines drug dealers often exploit children and young people, recruiting them to run drugs and cash between urban and county locations and to deal drugs on their behalf. Once recruited in to county lines it can be difficult for those being exploited to leave, with threats and violence used. Vulnerable adults, such as those dependent on drug use, will also be targeted and their property taken over by drug dealers in a local area, a practice known as cuckoo-ing.

During county lines intensification week officers visited educational and community venues to raise awareness and highlight the signs someone may be involved, or at risk of being exploited.

Police visited 85 homes where the occupant could potentially be at risk of cuckooing. Officers made a number of drug referrals for people in custody, and safeguarding referrals were made for others.

ACC Cooper added: “Education is also key, and our officers have conducted many visits to schools, social care providers, health professionals and other important community groups, to provide them with information on what to look for and how we can help the community to spot the signs of cuckooing – where gangs target the most vulnerable individuals and use their homes to sell drugs.

"We also spent the week delivering exploitation and vulnerability training to over 250 people across the three counties, which is possible thanks to funding from our Police and Crime Commissioner.

“County lines continues to remain a priority for West Mercia Police and we want to ensure the region becomes a no go area for criminals travelling from elsewhere. We will continue to pursue and prosecute those who bring drugs into our counties, commit violence and exploit vulnerable members of our communities.”

Anyone with suspicions that a property is being used to sell drugs, or that a young and vulnerable individual may be getting involved with county lines drug dealing can report this online under the Tell Us About section of our website www.westmercia.police.uk or information can be given anonymously to Crimestoppers on 0800 555111.

More information for children and young people about county lines can be found by visiting Fearless www.fearless.org/ Fearless is a site where you can access non-judgemental information and advice about crime and criminality.