British Transport Police has arrested 78 people and seized 48 lots of drugs by teaming up with partner forces on joint operations across the South West of England aimed at disrupting County Lines activity.
The operations, which fall under the codename ‘Operation Enhance’, were undertaken in partnership with Avon & Somerset, Dorset and Devon & Cornwall police forces.
It’s part of BTP’s County Lines Taskforce’s day-to-day efforts to make the railway a hostile environment for organised criminals to move drugs and illicit cash across the UK.
A key aim of the team is to identify and safeguard vulnerable children and adults often exploited by these organised criminals to transport the drugs and cash between import and export locations.
These locations can be hundreds of miles apart, and the Taskforce covers areas as far south as Cornwall and as far north as the tip of Scotland.
Operation Enhance has been running since the start of February, comprising of three one-week periods of focused activity targeting County Lines – with the final week ending on 19 March.
In that time, BTP officers arrested 78 people, seized 48 lots of drugs and £69k in cash. They also removed 15 dangerous weapons from the rail network and, crucially, identified and referred vulnerable children and adults caught up in this activity for safeguarding.
BTP County Lines Taskforce lead, Detective Superintendent Gareth Williams, said: “It’s vital we partner with our police colleagues across the counties to share information to disrupt the County Lines drug supply business model.
“The outstanding results demonstrate that a truly collective effort maximises our disruptive effect, but also makes a real difference to local communities that are being harmed through this exploitative criminality.”
Devon & Cornwall Police Detective Superintendent, Ed Wright, said: “We are working in partnership with BTP to disrupt County Lines drugs gang activity in our area. County Lines gangs exploit vulnerable children and adults to transport and sell drugs; grooming, manipulating and threatening them and putting them at significant risk.
“County Lines gangs cause significant harm, both to those they exploit and those who have the misfortune to cross their path. We have been working hard to tackle the threat they pose and disrupt their activity wherever we can in order to keep people in our communities safe.”
Avon & Somerset Police lead for County Lines, Superintendent Kerry Paterson, said: “County Lines drug dealing affects communities across the entire country by harming our most vulnerable and increasing the number of crimes on our doorsteps.
“We are pleased with the results from Operation Enhance, which mean we have fewer dealers, drugs, and dangerous weapons on our streets.
“We want to send a clear message to those operating County Lines in our force area that we will not tolerate this type of criminality and we will continue to work with our partners such as BTP to stop these harmful crimes”.
Dorset Police Superintendent, Richard Bell, said: “This has been a great opportunity to work in partnership with both BTP and our colleagues in the Regional Organised Crime Unit to tackle the issue of County Lines head on.
“The results have been impressive with a number of arrests as well as seizure of suspected drugs and weapons. Most importantly, we have also safeguarded a number of individuals who were being exploited by these criminal gangs, protecting both them and our wider communities.”