County lines: 1,500 arrested and £2m worth of class A drugs seized in week-long police crackdown

County lines drugs gang dawn raids. Credit: PA

Nearly 1,500 suspected drug traffickers have been arrested during a week-long police crackdown on county lines crime.

Zombie knives and samurai swords were among the 289 weapons seized in the operation across England and Wales between October 11-17.

County lines involves dealers using mobile phones to help transfer class A substances from large cities to towns and rural areas.

They are run by “line holders” and young children and vulnerable adults are often groomed, coerced, or threatened into being used as “runners” to deliver the drugs.

Officers visited 894 cuckooed addresses, households usually of vulnerable people, used to store drugs.

Among the items seized by police in the operation between October 11-17

  • 28.8kg of heroin

  • 26.8kg of cocaine

  • 12 zombie knives

  • 22 machetes

  • Eight samurai swords and four crossbows

  • 49 firearms

  • 120 knives

  • £1,254,384 in cash

  • £2 million worth of class A drugs

Some 1,468 people were arrested, and 2,664 vulnerable people – mostly children – were engaged for safeguarding by police.

Graham McNulty, the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) lead for county lines, said police are making “significant inroads into dismantling violent county lines”.

“The figures speak for themselves – we’re stopping abhorrent criminals abusing young people and lining their own pockets in the process,” he said.

“Nearly £2,000,000 worth of class A drugs and hundreds of weapons are now off our streets thanks to the work of officers up and down the country.”

He praised the work of the Children’s Society charity, which has helped officers to identify children involved in the crimes, and urged anyone worried about a vulnerable person who could be engaged in county lines to contact police.

Deputy Assistant Commissioner Graham McNulty (left), who leads the Met's response to County Lines, and Commissioner Cressida Dick. Credit: PA

The NPCC said the number of county lines operating in England and Wales has declined from 2000 in 2018 to around 600 active lines currently, thanks to the work of forces in major exporting areas including Merseyside, West Midlands and London.

Police can now bring victimless prosecutions for modern slavery offences, which ensure children and vulnerable adults are spared the ordeal of having to face their exploiters in court.