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Between Monday, 1 February and Sunday, 14 February, officers in Southampton carried out two weeks of dedicated work to tackle County Lines networks and disrupt the supply of drugs across the city. We ended the fortnight with 24 arrests, over £2000 worth of Class A drugs seized and five deal lines disrupted.
The two weeks of action took place across Hampshire and saw districts work with a number of partners, carrying out warrants and operations in relation to the County Lines networks exploiting both the city’s travel links and local children.
As part of their ongoing work, officers have also been identifying and engaging with vulnerable children and adults, referring them to services that can offer them support where necessary, and have visited fourteen cuckooed addresses. The local teams continue to work alongside housing partners to ensure the residents of these addresses are receiving the monitoring and support that they need.
Fourteen people have been safeguarded as a result of the intensification period.
Officers from Southampton’s High Harm and Neighbourhoods teams also joined forces with the British Transport Police on Friday 5 February at Southampton Central Train Station. Supported by a Ministry of Defence police dog, the operation served to stop and disrupt organised crime using public transport as a means to distribute drugs and safeguard exploited children.
Inspector Hayley O’Grady 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.”
“The two weeks of intensification serves to further our ongoing proactive approach to disrupting the supply of drugs within our communities.
“We know that drug dealing and violence are inextricably linked, as highlighted across the fortnight with the recovery of several knives, and that is why tackling the supply of drugs – especially through County Lines – is a crucial part of our work to reduce violent crime.
“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.”
Throughout the fortnight, 62 County Lines-related stop and searches were made.
Officers also seized eight phones across the two weeks and more than £10,000 in cash, which will assist in their investigations into County Lines networks coming in and out of the city.
Signs of County Lines or cuckooing activity include an increase in visitors/cars to a house or flat; regularly changing residents; substance misuse or drug paraphernalia and changes in young people, for example having new unaffordable things, going missing or unexplained injuries.
If you have concerns, trust your instincts – if somebody shows signs of mistreatment, or a child seems to be travelling long distances or is unfamiliar with a locality, you can report suspicions to Southampton City Council, local police on 101 or call 999 in an emergency.
Alternatively, you can contact the independent charity Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111