Police focus on disruption and dismantling county lines during intensification activity against transient drug netowrks
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Officers tackling drug related harm in Hampshire and the Isle of Wight have arrested 100 suspected drug dealers; seizing 82 mobile phones, over £1 million pounds worth of drugs and almost £53,000 in cash, alongside weapons and a firearm.
These arrests were the result of a countywide intensification into drugs supply in Hampshire and the Isle of Wight.
The intensification activity saw 17 drug networks disrupted, with police targeting individuals who ran either local or county lines, supplying crack cocaine and heroin.
Warrants took place in London and in our towns and cities across Portsmouth, Fareham and Gosport, Basingstoke, Winchester, Southampton, the New Forest, Eastleigh and Isle of Wight over the last two weeks.
Overall a total of 88 men and 12 women were arrested with; 13 of these were aged under 18. Most offences were for being concerned in the supply of Class A drugs, with a few under modern day slavery legislation.
Neighbourhood officers visited cuckooed addresses across the Force region with 42 vulnerable people being identified and 6 safeguarded.
The proactive operation involved officers from right across the Force – including Neighbourhoods teams, drug and high harm teams, proactive roads policing, firearms, dogs, crime investigation detectives and officers from the county lines specialist team Op Monument.
County lines is a familiar term to many, but to others it is still an entirely unknown concept. It is not a crime type but a drugs distribution model and involved criminals setting up a phone line through which they sell Class A drugs – mainly crack cocaine and heroin.
Those in charge of the phone line often recruit children and vulnerable young adults into trafficking he drugs all over the country to avoid detection. These individuals are often threatened with violence and are unable to escape.
Cuckooing is when a drug dealer takes over the home of a vulnerable individual who often lives on their own. Like a cuckoo, the dealer moves in, takes over the property and turns it into a drugs den.
Over the past 18 months, Hampshire Constabulary has developed a deeper understanding of the drivers of county lines and how those running lines operate. It is now tackling it under the name Op Monument, alongside the Metropolitan Police’s Op Orochi.
The operation involved joint work with British Transport Police, Ministry of Defence Police and Royal Mail. This intensification period yielded the following results:
1 DDTRO – drug dealing telecommunications restriction order requiring the disconnection of a communication device, phone number or something else used with a communication device which is being used in connection with drug dealing offences.
10 school county line education visits
7 taxi firm engagements
All those arrested were questioned on suspicion of offences, including suppling drugs, possession of firearms and criminal property.
Detective Superintendent, Nick Plummer, Head of Serious Organised Crime, said: “Operations like this, which target the criminal exploitation of vulnerable people, are vital because we know that this type of criminality drives a high proportion of violent crime in our communities.
“During these weeks of intensification we have identified vulnerable people, most of whom were victims of this type of exploitation, who we are now safeguarding and working with them to give support they need.
"If you are concerned or worried about a young or vulnerable person please contact your local safeguarding partnership website to seek help.”
Through Op Monument work alone, in the last 12 months has seen nine convictions and 25 county lines dismantled. The team has also identified 69 young people identified at risk of exploitation / grooming as a result of contact with a county drug line. Many more are still progressing through the courts.
Live investigations remain ongoing with main focus on dismantling the remaining county lines and safeguarding vulnerable people.
In one instance, on Tuesday 2 February, detectives attended a hotel in Southsea. It was suspected that a booking was a COVID breach and as a result a man was arrested on suspicion of fraud offences. Searches of his room located Class A drugs and he was further arrested on suspicion of being concerned in the supply of Class A drugs. He has since been charged.
During a joint operation with British Transport Police a stop check ended in the arrest and subsequent charge for a man from London being concerned in the supply of Class A drugs in the Winchester area. Investigation teams then carried out a subsequent warrant for the associated county line resulting in the arrest and subsequent charge of another man from London.