More than 300 people arrested and weapons seized in crackdown on North West drugs gangs

Project Medusa aims to tackle County Lines drug dealing and exploitation of young people and vulnerable adults.

More than 300 people have been arrested, and drugs, weapons and money seized in Merseyside, Cheshire and Greater Manchester in a week-long operation tackling County Lines drug dealing.

The crackdown was part of a national operation between 4 and 10 March, leading to hundreds of arrests and a significant amount of Class A and B drugs seized.

During the week, Project Medusa officers, alongside local policing teams, worked with partners and other forces from across the UK to dismantle and disrupt criminal gangs.

On Merseyside, 39 people at risk of being exploited by drugs gangs have been taken into safety.

Project Medusa, funded by the Home Office, is a Merseyside-led initiative set up to tackle County Lines drug dealing and the criminal exploitation of young people and vulnerable adults all year round.

E-bikes seized in joint operation with Cheshire Police Credit: Merseyside Police

Activity included warrants, safeguarding visits to vulnerable people and joint operations with North Wales, Cheshire, Norfolk and Lancashire.

On Merseyside, the week of action resulted in:

  • 237 arrests linked to county lines activity

  • 8 drug lines identified and closed

  • 18kg of drugs seized (including crack cocaine, heroin, cocaine and cannabis), 1,080 wraps of crack, heroin and cocaine, 29 cannisters of nitrous oxide and 247 cannabis plants seized and destroyed

  • £227,000 of cash seized

  • 39 weapons seized, including 19 knives and one handgun

  • 39 people identified as being at risk of exploitation and safeguarded

In a joint operation with Cheshire Police, warrants were executed simultaneously across 19 addresses which resulted in the recovery of approximately £150,000 cash, suspected stolen designer watches and a fleet of electric pedal bikes with a value more than £50,000.

A 25-year-old man from Formby was arrested on suspicion of drug supply and money laundering offences.

Cash seized in Pwllheli, North Wales Credit: Merseyside Police

During a plain clothed operation in Pwllheli, Wales, officers sighted a suspected drug deal and stop searched a 25-year-old man, finding a small quantity of cannabis.

During a further search of a property in Pwllheli, officers seized a large quantity of cannabis, offensive weapons, drugs paraphilia and approximately £3,000 in cash.

A 25-year-old man from London was arrested on suspicion of drug supply and possession of cannabis.

Merseyside Police say eight drug lines were identified and closed during the week alone.

Police working with social workers, local safeguarding partners and leading child exploitation charities safeguarded 39 people at risk of being exploited by gangs.

The force’s Operation Stonehaven is focused on prevention and offering diversionary activities for young people at risk of exploitation by criminal gangs.

Since 2019, it has supported more than 9,000 young people a year, through more than 60 partnerships with organisations such as Shrewsbury House, Toxteth El8te, Catch22 and Positive Futures.

Top: drugs seized in Liverpool, and bottom, during stop and search in St Helens Credit: Merseyside Police

SIO for Project Medusa, Jimmy Belmar, said: "Exploitation, coercion, and violence are cornerstones of the county lines trade, and gangs will often trap young and vulnerable people into debt, forcing them to transport their drugs to other parts of the country.

"This week of action highlights the work we do day in, day out to crackdown on county lines and the organised criminals involved in the supply of drugs, not only in Merseyside but across the UK.

"Officers have made more than 200 arrests, seized a significant amount of Class A and B drugs and recovered 39 weapons which can no longer be caused to cause harm in our communities.

"These results are testament to the effective joint working between forces and partners."

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