Cleveland Police make arrests and seize drugs and weapons in child exploitation raids

Kris Jepson attended the police raids on Teesside to target organised crime groups

Morning raids were carried out by Cleveland Police in an operation aimed at disrupting alleged child exploitation.

The raids took place in Middlesbrough and Stockton and were based on intelligence handed to the police.

Officers did not locate any suspects in the first property in Middlesbrough, but arrested two people on suspicion of possession of drugs and a machete at an address in Stockton.

The action was part of Operation Artemis to mark Child Exploitation Day.

Cleveland Police raids Credit: ITV News

PC Lee Swainston, who attended the second raid, told ITV News he sees evidence of child exploitation in Teesside "most days", adding that in the last month he has helped safeguard children as young as 14. Many of whom are victims of exploitation and have been caught supplying Class A drugs on behalf of those exploiting them.

PC Swainston said: "Organised crime groups will groom, exploit younger males that are in the area, with promises of cash, mobile phones, new clothing, street credit even. A lot of the time we see these young lads using cannabis. They will promise them that and give them that, to supply drugs on their behalf."

Cleveland Police raids Credit: ITV News

Officers say it is important adults report suspected sexual and criminal exploitation of children because it can happen anywhere.

Detective Chief Inspector Steve Chatterton, who led the raids on Monday 18 March, said: "The children don’t realise that they’re being exploited because they think that they’ve got mates and it’s their mates that they’re hanging about and doing favours for.

"So we struggle sometimes to get that exploitation disclosure, so we gather intelligence by the multi-agency forums that we are in, by police officers out on the street, social workers, and the organised crime groups that we’ve identified and we watch them to see who they use to do X, Y and Z for."

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