WEST Mercia Police has seized more than £600,000 worth of drugs over the past 12 months when targeting county lines drug dealing.

In the same time period officers have arrested 314 people in connection with drug related offences and seized 168 weapons as the force continues to focus on tackling the national drug-selling scheme.

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.

Drugs with an estimated street value of £603,240 have been seized between March 2021 and April 2022, 42 vehicles were also confiscated, along with 417 devices.

More than £156,000 in cash was also recovered by police and 115 safeguarding referrals were made.

Whitchurch Herald: County lines targets young and vulnerable peopleCounty lines targets young and vulnerable people

Detective Chief Inspector Ian Wall, from West Mercia Police’s crime and vulnerability department, added: “County lines gangs continue to blight all of our communities across West Mercia, where they prey on the young and people who are vulnerable.

“As a force we recognise it as a priority and the activity, and fantastic results, over the past 12 months shows the focus we place upon this type of crime. We will continue to treat it as a priority and be relentless in our efforts to arrest those responsible, put in place measures to protect our communities and safeguard those vulnerable to county lines offending.

“The efforts of our officers across West Mercia is aimed 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.”


Who do county lines dealers target?

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 or home invasion.

Over the past year officers, along with volunteers, have visited educational and community venues to raise awareness and highlight the signs someone may be involved, or at risk of being exploited.

Vicki Ridgewell, one of the force’s exploitation and vulnerability trainers said: “Education is key and working along with officers, we have visited schools, social care providers, health professionals and other important community groups to deliver exploitation and vulnerability training. During the sessions we provide them with information on what to look for and how members of they can spot the signs of criminal exploitation including cuckooing and home invasion, or used to deal drugs.

“Throughout the year we dedicate our time to delivering exploitation and vulnerability training to people across the three counties the force covers, which is made possible thanks to funding from the Police and Crime Commissioner.”

To date the exploitation and vulnerability trainers have delivered training to around 32,000 professionals, parents, volunteers and members of the public.


How can I help in the fight against county lines?

Anyone with suspicions that a property is being used to sell drugs, or that a young or vulnerable individual may be getting involved with county lines drug dealing can report this online under the Tell Us About section of the police 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.

County Lines forms part of West Mercia Police’s Protect campaign. Protect sees police work closely with partners to tackle serious and organised crime and the harm it causes.

The broad-ranging campaign comprises four key areas of activity:

• Pursue - prosecuting and disrupting those involved in SOC

• Prevent - stopping individuals from becoming involved in SOC

• Protect - increased levels of protection against SOC

• Prepare - reducing the impact of SOC where it occurs

If you are interested in receiving the free exploitation and vulnerability training, which is free and open to any group or agency, please contact West Mercia Police by emailing trainerswdbc@westmercia.police.uk.