Partnership work to disrupt drug networks and safeguard exploited children
Main article content
Police in Southampton joined forces with British Transport Police (BTP) to tackle county lines networks exploiting the city’s rail links and exploiting local children.
Plain clothed and uniformed officers from the city’s high harm neighbourhoods team and BTP county lines taskforce were supported by Police Dog Ted and his handler, from the Ministry of Defence Police as they undertook a five-hour operation to stop and disrupt organised crime using public transport as a means to distribute drugs around, and safeguard exploited children.
A total of 36 searches were completed yesterday resulting in 21 positive searches in which class A and B drugs were seized. One man, aged 44, from Dumfries and Galloway was arrested on a warrant for failing to appear at court in Cumbria to face charges of stalking and harassment, dangerous driving and drugs offences. British Transport Police made a further arrest and a large knife was seized during the operation at Southampton Train Station.
Southampton High Harm Team Inspector Clive Marsh, said: “Southampton is a busy city, and is a safe place in which to live, work and visit - but like most towns and cities up and down the country, we have experienced issues with county lines drugs networks and associated activity such as knife crime and violent assaults.
“Southampton has good transport links with the M3/M27 motorways and a train line into London and the Midlands so it is an attractive place for criminals who are trying to move drugs around. But we work alongside our partners like British Transport Police in regular operations such as this – to robustly target criminals and prevent them from using our excellent network.
“Often, drug dealers will take advantage of and exploit vulnerable housing tenants, taking over their home and using it as a base for their criminal operation. This is known as ‘cuckooing’. Not only do these gangs exploit vulnerable people, but they also target children and recruit them into their criminal network.
“We work alongside our partners to issue closure orders on properties that are causing issues of criminality and anti-social behaviour in the community – and to safeguard those vulnerable people.”
“The Government pledged a specific drug related harm fund to help us tackle this problems - and this is happening right now in Hampshire.
“We continue to work extremely hard, alongside our partners, to bring criminals to justice and support those vulnerable people who are exploited by criminals.”
Detective Superintendent Gareth Williams, the lead of the BTP County Lines Taskforce, said: “Our Taskforce operates nationally, targeting County Lines gangs at every opportunity and carrying out operations almost daily. I’d like to thank Hampshire Police for their support during this operation at Southampton station.
“Our role is to make the railway increasingly hostile to gangs who use them to transport drugs – this has been very successful with hundreds of arrests and many seizures of drugs and weapons since the start of the year.
“Sadly, these gangs exploit or intimidate vulnerable children into carrying drugs or cash on the railway, often putting them at great risk. We use every operation as an opportunity to identify exploited children and make every effort to offer safeguarding and pull them away from crime.
“We’re working alongside The Children’s Society to encourage everyone to Look Closer for any signs of child exploitation and report them to the police. Key indicators include a teenager travelling long distances, alone with a large amount of cash, or avoiding any sort of authority at stations. These indicators are small but invaluable and help inform where we target next.”
When it comes to exploitation, there is no 'perfect victim', any young person can be exploited. Hampshire Constabulary are joining British Transport Police, Police Chief Council and the Children’s Society in asking the public to #Look Closer and learn to spot the signs of child exploitation and abuse how to report if you have concerns https://bit.ly/31Vd3Kv .
Exploitation can happen anywhere, to any child. Know what signs to look for and how to report concerns to the police on 101 or 999 in an emergency.