How police are beating heroin dealers at their own game
- Credit: Archant © 2007
The inspector behind Norfolk’s response to drug dealing has revealed that 31 heroin and crack cocaine supply lines have been cut in less than a year.
Robin Windsor-White also told part of the secret behind the police’s success - beating the dealers at their own game.
County lines is a sophisticated “business model” used to get class A drugs into circulation by building strong links between Norwich and Norfolk’s main towns, and big cities like London.
Norfolk officers have mirrored that approach by forging strong links with the Metropolitan Police.
They set up Operation Orochi, a partnership built the forces, using highly technical mobile phone analysis to exchange information between the two forces and allow Norfolk officers to cut off the supply at the source.
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Insp Windsor-Waite, Norfolk Constabulary’s county lines team lead, said: “Often the lines will be run by gangs in London or individuals, who know that moving large quantities at a single time will make them more at risk, so will instead move smaller quantities at a time, but more frequently. This obviously means they will need more workers.”
These workers will generally be either young or vulnerable people, who dealers will prey upon to move the supply into Norfolk - while themselves remaining in the capital to take the lion’s share of any profit.
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He said: “You may be surprised to learn we often find missing children from London turning up in Norfolk because they have been sucked into a deal.
“It is not at all pleasant but quite often you will find people will have been sent with drugs tightly sealed and concealed in human orifices, as the dealers know full well we are not permitted to search physically search them. You can imagine this would not only cause psychological damage to these vulnerable people, but also physical harm.
“Typically these people tend to be teenagers from around 15 up, but they can be younger and the people tend to choose teenagers who look a lot older than they are so they don’t look suspicious travelling alone.
“A few years ago in Norfolk we were seeing an exponential growth in the number of lines operating, so we set about finding a solution to that.
“There was a conception among drug dealers and gangs that county lines was a low risk and high reward way of going about business - the remarkable work our team has done in the last year is reversing that.”
The specific team, which is made up of around 10 dedicated officers supported by analysts and other intelligence offers who stay in constant communication with the Met to identify the lines at their source - and once the team has enough information they travel to the capital before arresting the line holder, charging them and putting them behind bars - thus shutting off the line.
Insp Windsor-Waite added: “I am confident that we know the names and numbers of every county line currently operating in Norfolk and we are in the process of locating them all.
“The key message is this: if you are thinking of setting up a county line in Norfolk we will find you and you will go to jail - so it is not worth doing.”
Last week, the constabulary was involved in a nationwide “intensification week”, which saw additional focus placed on tackling county lines, 19 people arrested by Norfolk officers and three lines shut down.
But Insp Windsor-Waite said that while this was “absolutely tremendous work”, this was no one-off.
He said: “In Norfolk, every week is an intensification week.”