Wiltshire Police has been continuing its work on closing down County Lines activity by taking part in two weeks of activity.
Officers from the Wiltshire Force's Fortitude Team were supported by officers and staff from the South West Regional Organised Crime Unit, our Force's Drone Unit, the National Crime Agency (NCA) and Community Policing Teams based in Swindon.
During the period of activity, where police teams carried out raids on several properties in Swindon, a total of 25 arrests were made - 21 men and four women aged between 17 and 54-years-old were arrested on suspicion of drug dealing.
Fourteen of those arrested have now been charged in connection with drug dealing (thirteen men and one woman aged between 18 and 44-years-old.)
In addition to the arrests made, Wiltshire Police seized:
• A total of £21,770 in cash
• Several weapons, including a machete and knife
• Approximately 500 wraps of drugs (heroin and cocaine)
• Assets including a Breitling Watch
Det Insp Megan Kenzie, Head of the Fortitude Team in Swindon, said: "This is a fantastic result targeting and disrupting 15 County Lines in a very short period of time.
“Collaborating with colleagues from other areas of policing as well as partners, this is a good example of successful joint working where we are committed to tackling drugs gangs and protecting those at risk of being exploited by these groups.
“We know that the public have real concerns about the impact of County Lines in their communities, however, I hope they should feel reassured by the ongoing efforts and hard work by officers and staff across the Force in tackling this type of organised criminality.
“The help from the public is also paramount and I would urge anyone who suspects drug gangs operating in their area to contact us.”
PCC Philip Wilkinson added: “Wiltshire’s communities deserve to be free from the scourge of County Lines gangs. These unlawful and despicable people decimate communities, prey on vulnerable people and peddle drugs on the streets of our towns - destroying lives.
“This proactive, robust, response to the ever-increasing issue of County Lines by Wiltshire Police, and supported by the NCA, is to be applauded.
“We want the organised crime gangs who coordinate this loathsome trade to get the message: Wiltshire isn’t a soft target - if you come here to deal drugs, and abuse our residents, you will be found and we will deal with you.
“Our recent operations closed 15 different lines established by London-based dealers. In the process, we have seized hundreds of packets of drugs which won’t hit Wiltshire’s streets and several dangerous weapons that can’t kill or maim our residents.
“Now I want to ensure those tentacles of crime can’t infiltrate back into our communities. I will work with the local authorities, and other partners, to develop a multi-agency approach which will create a hostile environment for all criminals and one which makes our residents not only feel safe but to actually be safer.
“Only by looking at the problems holistically: causes, symptoms and consequences of crime, will we continue to make a difference and our communities will start to feel safer.”
Wiltshire Police have also composed a list of signs that a young person may be being exploited or involved with drug gang activity:
- Increased mobile phone activity
- Unexplained injuries
- Change in mood
- Gang associations
- New expensive possessions they cannot account for
- Missing from home
- Increase in anti-social behaviour
- Decline in school grades
NCA Director of Investigations Nikki Holland said of the drug gang crackdown efforts: “We provided more than 30 officers to Wiltshire to assist during the County Lines intensification week. We are delighted to have helped them achieve their impressive results in taking down lines and arresting suspects.
“The NCA leads the UK fight against the scourge of Class A drugs coming into the UK. The intensification week comes after a very busy year for us with some superb results but building on that success is a high priority for us.”
This County Lines activity falls under Project Optimise – Wiltshire Police’s approach to serious and organised crime.
The force says the community plays a vital role in helping them to tackle serious and organised crime. If an individual suspects a crime or believes someone is being exploited, they are asked to call 101 or 999 for an emergency.
Members of the public can also report anonymously via Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.
Throughout this week, people can follow the discussion on Wiltshire Police's social media channels using the hashtags #CountyLines #LookCloser.