Home Secretary joins Merseyside Police on dawn raids

The Home Secretary joined police as they raided homes across Merseyside this morning.

Priti Patel watched on during the drugs raids - the high-profile culmination of a long-running investigation into a county lines operation.

Police teams raided homes across the region in a series of co-ordinated raids. Video footage captured the moment a chainsaw was used to break down a door in Norris Green, Liverpool.

Credit: Merseyside Police

The county lines networks are run by city gangs who attempt to take over the drugs market in other towns and cities, sometimes peddling misery hundred of miles from their base.

Vulnerable children and adults, addicted customers and people with mental health conditions are often targeted, with gang members using them to do deal drugs and taking over their homes in a process known as “cuckooing”.

Merseyside outfits are known to have influence in Cheshire, Lancashire, Cumbria, North Wales, Devon and Cornwall.

Police said eight warrants have been executed today at addresses in Merseyside and North Wales, resulting in 13 arrests.

More than 120 police officers were involved in today’s operation.

Police teams - including some from the British Transport Police - were also operating on the coach and rail network today.

Together, a range of authorities aimed to create a ‘ring of steel’ around Merseyside in a bid to combat County Lines crews.

Credit: Merseyside Police

Chief Constable Paul Crowther, from British Transport Police, said: "We are the specialist force for policing the rail network and my officers have great experience in tackling issues which span the nation, such as county lines.

"We have seen first hand the devastating impact these exploitative gangs have on young people, and we are determined to disrupt this criminal activity.

"Since the founding of the county lines taskforce, we have seen excellent results, with 80 gang members being arrested and drugs and other potentially lethal weapons being seized.

"With each arrest comes valuable intelligence on how these corrosive gangs operate, and likewise we can help safeguard exploited children from harm."

He added: "Thankfully, the rail network continues to be a low crime environment, and with this Home Office funding, we will continue to take decisive action to shut down trafficking networks."