Police arrest 22 people within two days during week of action against county lines drug dealing
PUBLISHED: 06:30 15 October 2018 | UPDATED: 10:13 15 October 2018
Archant Norfolk 2018
A week of action to crackdown on drug gangs operating in the county led to 22 arrests in just two days.
The operation was part of a national clampdown on so-called county lines dealing, which began on Monday, October 8 to Sunday, October 14.
The term is used to describe gangs, groups or drug networks that supply drugs from urban to rural areas across the country, using dedicated mobile phone lines. Police have found 21 county lines operating in Norfolk.
Over the last week, officers carried out search warrants, stopped vehicles using automatic number plate recognition (ANPR) and visited vulnerable people who have been subjected to violence by criminals.
By mid-week, Assistant Chief Constable Nick Davison said 22 people had been arrested, with more than 100 wraps of heroin seized as well as machetes and other weapons.
He said a vehicle making its way back to London on the A14 had also been stopped and found to be stashed with drugs and weapons.
“What we have got are all the police forces in the UK working with the National Crime Agency,” ACC Davison said. “We have been particularly targeting areas where we know there are street dealings in county lines.
“We have seen an increase in county lines street dealing, that’s certainly the case in Norwich.”
What makes county lines drug dealing so insidious is how it exploits the vulnerable and children, said ACC Davison.
Since the launch of Operation Gravity - a Norfolk Police campaign focussed on targeting county lines criminals - around 753 people have been arrested, 133 of those children under the age of 18.
Many vulnerable adults on the verge of drug criminality are controlled by gang members through cuckooing, where drug dealers take over their home to use as a base for drug dealing.
ACC Davison said: “We have been visiting already identified vulnerable adults subjected to cuckooing in the past, speaking to them about opportunities for support and intelligence.
“There was a case where officers stopped three people in the street that led us back to the address where the cuckooing was taking place. Street dealing and cuckooing go hand in hand.
“Victims of cuckooing have been typically female, on the fringes of activity themselves or have got into a relationship with a gang member. They are subjected to coercion and sexual violence to control them.”
ACC Davison said public support has been crucial in tackling county lines.
He added: “Working with the community is absolutely critical, the only way we are able to disrupt and dismantle these crime groups is with the help from the community.
“Operation Gravity for us is about strengthening work with our partners and the whole of the public service. “We can’t arrest our way out of this.”