‘Largest ever’ raid on drug gangs in North West leads to 25 people charged
A total of 25 people have been charged with drug offences following what officers have called the 'largest ever' blitz on County Lines gangs across the North West.
The operation carried out by Cheshire Police has led to 23 men and two women charged with conspiracy to supply class A drugs.
In the early hours of Wednesday 11 August, almost 400 officers raided 28 addresses in Greater Manchester, Cheshire, Merseyside and one location in Birmingham.
The arrests were part of Operation Spartans which was described as the ‘largest operation to disrupt serious and organised crime’ ever.
Addresses targeted in Salford included Tenterfields View; Liverpool Street; Light Oaks Road; Delaney Heights; Bank Lane; Oronsay Grove; Aspinall Crescent, Little Hulton; as well as Ashdale Drive in Burnage, south Manchester.
They appeared at Chester Magistrates Court or Warrington Magistrates Court on Thursday 12 August.
What is County Lines?
'County lines' is a phrase used to describe how organised crime gangs export illegal drugs into areas across the UK and use mobile phones to facilitate the onward supply.
Criminals are likely to exploit vulnerable adults and children to move – and often store – drugs and money on their behalf.
During the operation, police say they identified those believed to be contacted by the county lines mobile phone to purchase controlled drugs.
Items confiscated during the search included drugs, cash, vehicles, watches, clothes and mountain bikes.
Prior to the arrests, an eight-month investigation was carried out by Cheshire police’s Serious and Organised Crime Unit into multiple organised crime groups (OCG) across Manchester and Merseyside into Warrington.
Detective Superintendent Simon Draco, Cheshire Police's lead on Serious and Organised Crime, said: “This morning’s strike action is the largest single operation focusing on individuals who are believed to be involved in organised criminal activity.
“The investigation centred on Warrington and those suspected of travelling from Greater Manchester and Merseyside to supply crack cocaine and heroin to drug users in the town.”
The investigation was backed by officers from the North West Regional Organised Crime Unit, Greater Manchester Police, and Merseyside Police.
About 370 police officers were involved in the operation which included undercover operatives who were used to purchase controlled drugs as part of the investigation.
Detective Superintendent Simon Draco said: “It’s well known that county lines drug dealers will often prey on children and vulnerable adults.
"In this operation we believe homes were taken over by the organised crime groups to be used as drug dens and on occasions they utilised teenagers to be part of their criminality.
“This type of exploitation leaves people in fear but can ultimately destroy lives and ruin communities.
“Whether in or out of police uniform we will be patrolling your streets and Cheshire’s borders to prevent any organised crime groups attempting to fill the void created from today’s arrests.”