Key role for Wiltshire Police in tackling cross-border County Lines gangs

By Barrie Hudson - 26 September 2023

  • Wiltshire Police and Crime Commissioner Philip Wilkinson

    Wiltshire Police and Crime Commissioner Philip Wilkinson

Swindon is among communities across the South West being urged to report any drug-related activity.

The aim is to build an ‘intelligence-rich’ picture which will be at the heart of a regional campaign to disrupt county lines gangs.

The regional intensification campaign – called Operation Scorpion – will be happening across the south west with exact locations and timings being kept under wraps.

Op Scorpion, now in its sixth iteration since inception, harnesses the collective powers of the region to disrupt drug-related crime. Alongside targeting increased disruption, its aim is to ensure young people and their families are being warned about the dangers of exploitation and how to spot the signs.

The regional focus is a result of the region's five Police and Crime Commissioners – from Wiltshire, Devon and Cornwall, Dorset, Gloucestershire and Avon and Somerset – agreeing with their respective Chief Constables that their forces, supported by the South West Regional Organised Crime unit (SWROCU), would combine operational powers to tackle cross border drugs supply, drug-related crime and associated anti-social behaviour (ASB).

Wiltshire Police and Crime Commissioner Philip Wilkinson is the regional PCC spokesperson and is urging communities and residents to watch out for signs of county lines dealing – where drugs are transported, usually by children or vulnerable people who are coerced by gangs – and report information to police or anonymously to Crimestoppers.

Mr Wilkinson said: "County Lines, and associated drug crime, isn’t just a problem for urban police forces – it’s here, in the beautiful South West, and it’s often hidden in plain sight.

“All PCCs have heard, loud and clear, how their residents are sick to the death of the drug dealers operating in our communities – destroying their daily lives and making it impossible, on occasion, for ordinary lives to continue. The knock-on effects of drug dealers in communities can make life unbearable.

“The absolute key to the success of this work, and the targeting of ongoing police operations, is the intelligence gathered and given to us by our communities. All police forces across the South West need to know where this criminality is happening, build an intelligence-rich picture and then they will take action.

“Across the South West, myself and the other Police and Crime Commissioners – and our respective forces - are working relentlessly to ensure that County Lines dealing operations can be driven out of our villages, towns and cities by police working closely with local people.

“Local communities can be assured that we are going to make their lives so uncomfortable they no longer see the south west as a soft option for their criminality.

“The message is really simple: we are going to make the south west a hostile environment for all drug dealers.”

Wiltshire Police Chief Constable Catherine Roper, regional Chief Constable spokesperson, said: “Operation Scorpion combines resources, intelligence and enforcement powers from all south west police forces to create the most hostile environment we can for those intent on dealing their illegal drugs in our region.

"We know that those who supply and distribute illegal drugs operate in a borderless way, creating complex networks of drugs lines into our towns and cities. 

"We must mirror this borderless approach if we are going to be successful in taking a strong and robust stance against this sort of criminality. Drug dealing causes a misery to our communities that we will not tolerate.

“Central to helping us achieve this is you - our communities. We need to ensure you know what signs to spot, what information to report to us and how.

“Our collective message is clear – there is no place for drugs in the south west.”

People can report information anonymously to Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111 or via their website. Alternatively, they can report concerns to your local police force by calling 101 or visiting the force website.


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