Joint policing operation at Southampton Central train station to disrupt drug networks and safeguard exploited children
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Police in Southampton joined forces with British Transport Police (BTP) on Friday, 5 February to tackle county lines networks using the city’s rail links and exploiting local children.
Plain clothed and uniformed officers from Southampton’s High Harm Team, the Neighbourhoods Teams and BTP county lines taskforce were supported by Police Dog Ted and his handler from the Ministry of Defence Police, as they undertook a four 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 50 stop and searches were completed resulting in 10 positive searches in which class A and B drugs were seized. An 18-year-old man, from Southampton was arrested on suspicion to supply Class B drugs. He was questioned by officers and released from custody, but remains under investigation while our enquiries continue.
Sergeant Allan Dineley from Southampton’s High Harm Team 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. 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.
“Supply gangs are responsible for high levels of violence in addition to the exploitation and abuse of vulnerable adults and children.
“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.”
“It’s not only the obviously vulnerable who are groomed for county lines activity. Young people from more stable / affluent backgrounds have been groomed for county lines dealing and to conceal the illicit finance it generates.
“We continue to work extremely hard, alongside our partners, to bring criminals to justice and support people who are exploited by criminals.”
BTP County Lines Taskforce lead, Detective Superintendent Gareth Williams, said: “Since our dedicated Taskforce was introduced with Home Office funding in December 2019, we have built a strong picture of how County Lines organised criminals are using the railway network to transport drugs and cash between locations.
“On a weekly basis we run joint operations at stations and on-board trains with local forces across England, Scotland and Wales – putting pressure on these criminals and disrupting County Lines activity wherever it occurs.
“One of our priorities as a Taskforce is to safeguard the vulnerable children and adults exploited by County Lines organised criminals to get them out of harm’s way and away from crime.
“We’ve partnered with The Children’s Society’s Look Closer awareness campaign which encourages professionals, including members of rail staff, and the public to look out for signs that a child may be at risk of being groomed and exploited and report their concerns.”
Chris Brown from Southampton’s Violence Reduction Unit said “We work with police to ensure that support can be given to young people who can get caught up with drugs supply. The help from the SCC Missing, Exploited and Trafficked Team on this operation provides a wider approach to the issues and helped offer routes out and signposting to help for those individuals.”
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. You can report concerns by speaking to local police on 101 or call 999 in an emergency.
Alternatively, if you’d rather stay anonymous, you can call the independent charity Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.