A Northumbria Police operation to tackle cross-border drug dealing has seen 28 people arrested, more than £800,000 worth of Class A drugs seized and a number of deal lines shut down.
Last week, Northumbria Police, Regional Organised Crime Units (ROCUs) and other organisations across the country joined forces to take on the practice known as 'county lines' as part of a national intensification period which ran from Monday October 11 to October 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”. Young children and vulnerable adults are often groomed, coerced, or threatened into being used as “runners” to deliver the drugs.
Northumbria Police operation facts
Nationally, the campaign saw 1,468 arrests, £1.3m in cash seized as well as 289 weapons.
Among the items seized by police in the national operation between October 11-17
28.8kg of heroin
26.8kg of cocaine
12 zombie knives
Eight samurai swords and four crossbows
£1,254,384 in cash
£2 million worth of class A drugs
A total of 28 people – 22 men, three women and two males under 18 – were arrested in Northumbria Police's jurisdiction.
The force seized £21,960 of suspected criminal cash alongside eight mobile phones and a double barrel shotgun.
Officers recovered more than 17kgs of cocaine with an estimated street value of £600,000, as well as £200,000 of MDMA and £10,000 of LSD as well as quantities of cannabis and Gabapentin.
Detective Chief Inspector Sue Fryer, the force lead for County Lines praised the work of all officers who took part in the clampdown.
“This has been an incredible effort with teams from across the Force working together to share intelligence and take action to stop a brutal form of drug dealing which has no place here in Northumbria”, she said.
“What makes County Lines different to other forms of drug dealing is the aggression and the pushy methods used by criminals who are desperate to make money by selling highly addictive and illegal substances to some of the most vulnerable people in our communities – who then find themselves caught up in a cycle of debt, addiction and exploitation they can’t get out of.
“As part of Operation Sentinel, we will continue to tackle County Lines and organised crime and make sure that those involved are brought before the courts and held accountable for their actions.
The week of action also saw a range of partnership work delivered by teams from our Safeguarding Department, as well as continued diversionary work to steer young people away from crime through the Violence Reduction Unit.
ITV News Meridian's Kit Bradshaw interviews a former 'county lines' dealer.
Teams also carried out a range of work to help educate local authorities about the ways in which organised criminals can prey on vulnerable young people – from exploiting and grooming them into becoming mules and couriers, to taking over their accommodation in a practice known as cuckooing.
Northumbria Police and Crime Commissioner, Kim McGuinness said: “Operations like this are vital for safeguarding vulnerable people who are exploited by dealers.
"These dealers pray on the homeless, the vulnerable, people with alcohol and substance misuse issues and draw them in with the promise of a brilliant future.
"They then become indebted to them, they're threatened and they’re dragged into this life of crime that can be difficult to leave.
“It’s a big concern for me but what this work shows is that Northumbria Police won’t stand for it and is working hard, along with others, to put up a strong fight against drug dealing in our region, and we’ve seen strong results to match.